With $10 Million Bounty on His Head, Pakistan Militant Taunts U.S
Who wants to be a millionaire? In Pakistan, all you have to do is give the United States information leading to the arrest or conviction of Hafiz Saeed - an Islamist leader whose whereabouts are usually not a mystery. Saeed is suspected of masterminding the attack on India’s financial capital Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
U.S. authorities placed a bounty on Monday of up to $10 million on Saeed, but on Wednesday he was openly wandering across Pakistan’s military garrison town of Rawalpindi, hanging out with some of the most anti-American characters in the country.
“This is a laughable, absurd announcement. Here I am in front of everyone, not hiding in a cave,” Saeed told a news conference at a hotel - a mere 40-minute drive from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and just across from the headquarters of Pakistan’s army, recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
“Now that he has a price on his head, for this money anyone is willing to do anything,” said Javed, a 55-year-old government employee who declined to give his full name. “Once people see the money there is no saving him, only God can save him.”
In Washington, U.S. officials said the decision to offer the $10 million reward under the State Department’s longstanding “Rewards for Justice” program came after months of discussions among U.S. agencies involved in counter-terrorism.
The $10 million figure signifies major U.S. interest in Saeed. Only three other militants, including Taliban leader Mullah Omar, fetch that high a bounty. There is a $25 million bounty on the head of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
At the same time it targeted Saeed, the U.S. government also offered a smaller reward - $2 million - for Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, whom it said was the second in command of the militant group founded by Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
As with many militants sought by the United States - and unlike Saeed - Makki’s whereabouts are unknown to U.S. authorities. The bounty would be paid for information leading to his location.