Washington, April 5 (IANS) As a defiant Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed mocked the United States, Washington clarified its offer of $10 million bounty was not for finding him, but for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
"Just to clarify, the $10 million is for information not about his location, but information that leads to an arrest or conviction," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday as the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks taunted the US with a press meet in Rwalpindi.
"And this is information that could withstand judicial scrutiny, so I think what's important here is we're not seeking this guy's location. We all know where he is," he said when asked about the rationale of the reward.
Asked if he was suggesting that there is no information available to prosecute Saeed, Toner said: "There is information, there is intelligence that is not necessarily usable in a court of law."
The spokesman suggested that the timing of the reward offer had "nothing to do with the ongoing parliamentary review" in Pakistan about relations with the US following the US military raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May and the mistaken killing of 24 Pakistani troops during a NATO strike last November.
"Tthis is about a process in and of itself, separate and apart from our ongoing bilateral relations with Pakistan," Toner said. "It does, however, speak to the fact that we are in a shared struggle here and that individuals like this gentleman, Hafiz Saeed, are a threat to the region."
Denying that the move was intended to put pressure on the Pakistanis, he said, "We have very close counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan, apart from our recent difficulties in the broader relationship.
"This is not to put pressure on any one government, but we wanted to be able to provide Pakistan with the tools that they need to prosecute this individual," Toner said.
Asked if the announcement ahead of Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari's private visit to India would move the narrative back to the anti-militant fight and cooperation, Toner said it was for the governments of India and Pakistan to say what they would discuss.
"But we want to see, obviously, ever closer counterterrorism cooperation. It's to everyone's interests."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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