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Pakistan says no charity link to bomb plot

Agence France Presse

August 15, 2006

Pakistan's foreign ministry Tuesday denied "absurd" reports that a Pakistani charity diverted cash for earthquake relief towards an alleged plot to blow up airliners.

The ministry also said that British Al-Qaeda suspect Rashid Rauf, whose arrest is believed to have uncovered the conspiracy, was unconnected with any charities involved with last October's deadly South Asian quake.

Separately a Pakistani official said that authorities had previously probed the transfer of 20 million pounds from Britain to Pakistan but it was in a money laundering case and was "not even remotely linked" to the bomb plot.

"These are all absurd baseless stories. The objective is to malign Pakistan," foreign ministry spokesman Tasnim Alam told a weekly media briefing.

"Rashid Rauf has nothing to do with any charity involved in earthquake relief work."

The Washington Post said Tuesday that an unidentified Pakistani charity which received 10 million dollars from Britain for earthquake relief had helped finance the alleged plan to blow up US-bound passenger jets.

It did not name the charity but it quoted a Pakistani intelligence official as saying that funds traced to it helped investigators uncover the alleged plot.

The October 8 earthquake left 73,000 people dead and three million homeless.

The New York Times on Monday said British authorities were probing whether the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity, active in the mosques of Britain's largest cities, had provided money to some of the 23 suspects under arrest for the foiled bomb plot.

Dawa is regarded as the political wing of the Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

A spokesman for the group, Yahya Mujahid, told AFP Tuesday the allegations against it were "totally baseless." "We had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged plotters," Mujahid said.

A Pakistani government official told AFP that a Briton of Pakistani descent had sent more than 20 million pounds via Dubai between May and November 2005 into three Pakistani bank accounts.

The accounts were operated by four Britons of similar ethnicity, the official said.

"But it was a case of money laundering and the details were conveyed to the concerned British authorities," the official added on condition of anonymity.

He said no arrests were made in Pakistan in connection with the cash transfers and the probe was "not even remotely linked to any extremist organisation or London plotters."

A security official added that there would have been no reason for the alleged plotters to send money to Pakistan when any airline tickets or materials for bombs would more likely have been purchased in England.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafez Mohammed Saeed, a former militant leader, was placed under house arrest by Pakistan last week but authorities said he was held to stop him causing public disorder.

"Hafez Saeed was not arrested due to links with the international plot," Aslam added.

The foreign ministry has already refuted reports in the local Daily Times newspaper about the money transfers.

British authorities last week arrested around two dozen people, mainly Britons of Pakistani origin, in connection with the alleged plot and Islamabad said it played a key role in unearthing the gang.

Aslam said Rauf, named by Pakistan as a "key man" in the case, had been arrested in Pakistan's Punjab province, leading to the uncovering of the plot.

Intelligence officials told AFP at the weekend that Rauf was arrested in the Punjabi city of Bahawalpur.

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