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Apr 10, 2015 9:23 AM

Alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind leaves Pakistani jail

The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) The suspected Pakistani mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks was freed from a jail near Islamabad on Friday, following a court order that he be set free pending trial, his lawyer said.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, said to be the operations chief for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization blamed for the 2008 attacks, was out of detention early Friday morning, said attorney Rizwan Abbasi.

A Pakistani court first ordered Lakhvi's release on March 13, after Abbasi launched a legal battle claiming Lakhvi was being unlawfully held. But he remained in detention amid mounting pressure on Pakistan to more actively confront Islamic militants. He was ordered released for a second time on Thursday.

He still faces terrorism charges over the Mumbai attacks but the trial has not yet started.

"This is a triumph for law and justice," Abbasi said.

It's unclear if Lakhvi is banned from leaving Pakistan but Abbasi says he has to appear in court for his trial. His Pakistani passport was earlier deposited with the court authorities.

Lakhvi, who was first granted bail last December, is one of seven suspects on trial in Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. He was arrested in 2009 and had been in detention since then until Friday.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is an organization founded by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who now heads a charity known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, or JuD, which denies any links to the militant group.

Lakhvi could not be reached for comment after his release Friday and a Jamaat-ud-Dawa official denied a request from The Associated Press for an interview with Lakhvi.

India has repeatedly urged Pakistan to more actively pursue the case, and Pakistan faced renewed pressure following the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in December, which left more than 140 people dead, mainly schoolchildren.

India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh described Lakhvi's release as "unfortunate and disappointing," according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"India wants talks with Pakistan but the present development is unfortunate and disappointing," Singh told reporters in Lucknow, the capital of India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

On Thursday, when the court ordered Lakhvi's release for a second time, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that the failure to effectively prosecute "known terrorists" is a "real security threat for India and the world."

India wants Saeed, the JuD leader, also tried for the Mumbai attacks, and the United States has offered a $10 million reward for information that can bring him to justice.

Saeed had been in detention for a few months in connection with the Mumbai attacks but was never charged, and today he freely travels around Pakistan, making appearances on TV and in public.


Associated Press Ashok Sharma from New Delhi contributed to this report.


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