The suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, has been released on bail from a Pakistani jail, officials say. Jail officials in Rawalpindi said Mr Lakhvi was released on Friday morning. India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called the release “unfortunate and disappointing”, Indian media reports say. Mr Lakhvi had been granted bail in December, but was kept in detention under public order legislation. That detention was declared void by the High Court, which ordered his release.
Mr Lakhvi still faces trial – along with six other suspects – over the attacks, which left 166 people dead and damaged peace efforts between the two countries. The Mumbai attacks were blamed on militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group (LeT) which Mr Lakhvi was accused of heading. He was arrested by Pakistan on 7 December 2008, four days after he was named by Indian officials as one of the major suspects. A spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity accused of links to LeT, said Mr Lakhvi was “free now and in a secure place”.
“We can’t say exactly where is he at the moment for security reasons,” the official told AFP. Jail officers said he, along with six of his comrades, had several rooms at their disposal. They had access to a television, mobile phones and the internet, as well as dozens of visitors a day. These privileges had allowed him to remain in effective contact with the LeT rank and file, the officials said. Elements in the Pakistani establishment are known to have provided such facilities to jailed militant commanders whom they believe they may need in future.
The court order to free Mr Lakhvi on bail caused controversy as it came just after militants carried out a massacre at a school in Peshawar last December. The attack prompted the civilian and military leadership to come together to make a rare call for action against “all shades of terrorism”.