Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi, an UN-designated terrorist who trained the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) attackers for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and acted as the outfit’s chief on at least two occasions, died in a prison in Pakistan’s Punjab province while serving a sentence for terror financing, his aide said on Wednesday.
Bhuttavi, who founded LeT headquarters in Muridke in Punjab, was deputy to the outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. The JuD is the front organisation for the LeT.
”Bhuttavi, 77, was incarcerated at District Jail Sheikhupura, some 60 kms from Lahore, since October 2019 in a terror financing case. On May 29, he felt severe pain in his chest and was shifted to hospital where he was pronounced dead (due to cardiac arrest) on arrival,” a JuD official told PTI.
His funeral was held at the LeT/JuD headquarters in Muridke in which a large number of the supporters of the banned organisation participated amid high security.
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A source in the Punjab government told PTI that JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, who is lodged at the Kot Lakhpat jail since 2019 serving multiple sentences in terror financing cases, had requested the government to allow him to attend Bhuttavi’s funeral but permission was not granted.
An Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore had given Bhuttavi a jail term of 16 years in a terror financing case in 2020.
A close aide to Saeed, Bhuttavi faced sanctions from the US treasury department in 2011.
The UN Security Council’s ISIL (Daesh) and Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee added Bhuttavi to its list of designated terrorists in March 2012.
Bhuttavi was designated a terrorist by the UN Security Council for ”participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of” or “otherwise supporting acts and activities of” LeT.
A summary by the UN committee described him as a founding member of LeT who served as the acting emir of the LeT and the JuD on at least two occasions when Saeed was detained.
Saeed was detained days after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and held until June 2009. ”Bhuttavi handled the group’s day-to-day functions during this period, and made independent decisions on behalf of the organization,” according to the summary.
Saeed was also detained in May 2002.
Bhuttavi was also a scholar who issued fatwas authorising LeT/JuD operations.
”Bhuttavi helped prepare the operatives for the November 2008 terrorist assault in Mumbai, India, by delivering lectures on the merits of martyrdom operations,” the summary says.
Born in August 1946 in Pattoki, Kasur district of Punjab, Bhuttavi was the head of 150 JuD seminaries in Pakistan. His native town is Dipalpur, Okara district of Punjab, from where the lone captured LeT attacker Ajmal Kasab hailed. Since 1992, he was looking after the affairs of the LeT/JuD headquarters in Muridke before the government took over its charge four years ago.
The LeT was responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The US Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.