With offers donations and assistance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy pouring in, an unlikely person has reached out his hand to those slammed by the massive storm. His name is Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, and he’s one of the United States’ five most wanted terrorists on earth.
In the 1980s Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group that the U.S. accuses of being responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people. Saeed denies the allegation. He now runs the charitable wing of the group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has worked on disaster relief efforts in other countries. In 2001 Jamaat-ud-Dawa was labeled a terrorist group by the U.S., and there is currently a $10 million reward for Saeed’s capture.
On Tuesday Saeed said in a written statement that he is willing to send doctors and food to Sandy victims.
“Jamaat-ud-Dawa is ready to send its volunteers, doctors, food, medicines and other relief items on humanitarian grounds if the U.S. government allows us,” he said, according to Dawn, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan.
Saeed said he is aware of the price on his head, but his Islamic duty motivated him to help.
“America may have any opinion about us, it may fix bounties on our heads but as followers of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, we feel it is our Islamic duty to help Americans trapped in a catastrophe,” he said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. would not accept Saeed’s offer.
“While we have great respect for Islamic tradition of social assistance to those who are in need no matter where they might be, this particular offer strikes us as very hollow,” Toner said on Wednesday, according to CNN.
Saeed’s group is gaining a certain amount of legitimacy in Pakistan via its charity efforts, stepping in when the Pakistani government is unable to help its own people — which is often, wrote Huma Yusuf, a Pakistani journalist, in The New York Times.
The group’s improved image is creating more difficulties for Washington, Yusuf noted, “as the U.S. government will have an increasingly difficult time sidelining them.”