Pakistan accuses India of being behind 2021 bombing outside militant home

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, looks over the crowed as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, looks over the crowed as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

ISLAMABAD, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Pakistan's interior minister accused India on Tuesday of being behind a bombing in 2021 near the house of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of a militant Islamist group blamed for a deadly 2008 attack in Mumbai.

A suicide bomber rammed a car into a police checkpoint just outside Saeed's house, killing four people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in 2021. No one from his family was hurt.

"We have strong evidence that India was involved in this attack. Our forces have all the evidence that they funded it," Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a news conference in Islamabad.

A spokesperson for India's foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Saeed founded the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). India has accused LeT of orchestrating the 2008 attack on the country's financial capital, which killed 166 people, and says Saeed himself was the mastermind behind the assault.

Saeed has denied any involvement with militancy, including the Mumbai attack.

Sanaullah said Pakistan's counter terrorism unit had recently arrested several members of a cell after finding clues to their involvement in the 2021 suicide attack. He said India's intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had backed the group.

He did not give any more details on when the arrests took place or present any evidence to back his allegations.

A top counter-terrorism official sitting alongside him said Pakistan had traced cash transactions of more than $800,000 which were used to fund the cell. He said there was evidence showing the money came from India.

Sanaullah said Saeed was not at his home when the suicide bomber hit, but said his family might have been the target.

Saeed was arrested by Pakistan in 2019 and subsequently convicted of numerous terrorism financing charges. He is currently serving a 31-year prison term.

He has never been tried for the 2008 Mumbai assault.

India has for decades accused old rival Pakistan of supporting Islamist militants in attacks on Indian targets throughout the region. Pakistan denies that and accuses India of supporting separatist rebels in Pakistan.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Additional Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Crispian Balmer

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Shahzad is an accomplished media professional, with over two decades of experience. He primarily reports out of Pakistan, Afghanistan regions, with a great interest and an extensive knowledge of Asia. He also reports on politics, economy, finance, business, commodities, Islamist militancy, human rights