ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The United States has added the Pakistani militant group Jamaat-ur-Ahrar to its list of global terrorists, triggering sanctions against a faction that has staged multiple attacks on civilians, religious minorities and soldiers.
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for at least five major attacks in Pakistan since December, including the Easter Sunday bombing in a public park that killed 70 people in the city of Lahore.
The group is a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban movement that has also declared loyalty to Islamic State’s leadership in the Middle East.
It also claimed responsibility for the killing of two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar in March.
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar has not commented on the designation that was announced by the U.S. State Department on Wednesday. It means anyone who supports Jamaat-ur-Ahrar could have their assets frozen by the U.S. government.
Pakistan welcomed the decision.
“Pakistan has long pleaded to take concrete action against the TTP and their like who operate in Afghanistan, and they have planned and launched a number of attacks in Pakistan while operating from there,” Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria told a briefing, referring to the Pakistani Taliban.
The Pakistani Taliban, allied with but separate from the Afghan Taliban, are fighting to topple the Islamabad government and install a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Pakistan has over the years backed militants opposed to its old rival India and governments in Afghanistan seen as pro-Indian.
Pakistan says militants fighting it operate out of Afghanistan while Afghanistan says militants fighting it operate out of Pakistan.
Reporting and writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Additional reporting by Asad Hashim; Editing by Michael Perry