ISLAMABAD, Apr 10 – Pakistani authorities have freed the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on bail, sources said Friday, a move that swiftly drew furious condemnation from India.
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused over the terror siege that left 166 dead, was released late on Thursday, according to an official at Adiyala Prison in Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad.
India slammed the release as an “insult” to the victims of the three-day onslaught on its financial capital, blamed on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
LeT’s charitable wing Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) confirmed Lakhvi’s release.
“Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi has been released from jail. He is free now and in a secure place,” a senior JuD official told AFP.
“We can’t say exactly where is he at the moment for security reasons.”
The release comes after nearly four months of wrangling over Lakhvi’s detention, after a judge granted him bail in December, sparking an angry response from New Delhi.
The government slapped Lakhvi with a series of detention orders but judges repeatedly cancelled them.
On Thursday the Lahore High Court ordered his release, conditional on a two million rupee ($20,000) bond.
India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning and organising the violence.
A spokesman for India’s home ministry, who asked not to be named, slammed Lakhvi’s release.
“This is a very disappointing announcement. An insult to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. The global community should take serious note of Pakistan’s double-speak on terrorism,” the spokesman said.
Lakhvi and six other suspects have been charged in Pakistan but their cases have made virtually no progress in more than five years.
Delhi has long accused Islamabad of prevaricating over the trials, while Pakistan has alleged that India failed to give it crucial evidence.
Lakhvi’s initial bail order in December prompted an angry response from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said it came as “a shock to all those who believe in humanity”.
The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world, as commandos battled the heavily armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26, 2008.
It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.
Islamabad denies the charge but JuD, seen as a front for the militant LeT, operates openly in the country.
Pakistan has long been accused of playing a “double game” with militants, supporting groups it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends, particularly in disputed Kashmir.
Pakistan and India both control part of Kashmir but claim the whole of the territory and have fought two of their three wars over it since independence from Britain in 1947.