$10M bounty signals shift in terror landscape

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, arrives for a news conference in Rawalpindi on April 4, 2012.
Saeed to U.S: I'm right here. Come and get me
Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, arrives for a news conference in Rawalpindi on April 4, 2012.

(CBS News) The $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Pakistani extremist Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is essentially the first step in publicly recognizing that the militant group he founded, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is bigger, richer, more sophisticated and in many ways more dangerous than al Qaeda.

LeT is a group that has operated largely in the shadows. Its front organization, Jamaat ud Dawa, is well-funded, well-known and popular in Pakistan for its charitable endeavors - running hospitals, offering relief from earthquakes and floods and managing a network of schools. But large amounts of the millions raised for its charity work are believed to be funneled to LeT for terrorist operations.

LeT is the Pakistan's surrogate force in the battle over Kashmir, which most Pakistanis support. That is also the reason that Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, has maintained a close relationship with LeT. Even when they jailed Saeed after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which he allegedly masterminded, he met daily with his military leaders and directed operations of his terrorist branch while in custody.

U.S. offers $10M bounty for Pakistani militant
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Pakistani militant taunts U.S. over $10M bounty

But while LeT is generally viewed as a paramilitary group to fight for Kashmir, that is a vastly wrong assessment. The target in the Mumbai attack, which left 166 dead including six Americans, was telling. The hotels targeted - the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident - were used by foreign businessmen. The Nariman Jewish Center was also attacked, offering another reminder that Kashmir is really just a bumper-sticker issue for LeT. Their real goal is global jihad and their targets are Hindus, Jews and Christians.

(Watch John Miller discuss the U.S. bounty on Hafiz Mohammad Saeed at left.)

Iillyas Kashmiri, one LeT's key military leaders also sat on the military council of al Qaeda. He seamlessly meshed operations between the two organizations. For example, when the Mumbai attacks happened, the pre-operational surveillance of the hotels, train station and Jewish center were traced back to a Pakistani-American named David Coleman Headley in Chicago, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to providing material support to the LeT. Headley was working on instructions from Kashmiri.

And when al Qaeda planned to launch its own Mumbai-style massacres in Europe around Christmas in 2010, it was Kashmiri that Osama bin Laden turned to supply trained commandos. He would loan then from LeT to al Qaeda, keeping LeT's role hidden.

And according to documents recovered from Bin Laden's hideout in Abbotabbad, when bin Laden discussed plans to assassinate President Obama, it was Kashmiri and the LeT network he turned to.

  • John Miller

    John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.