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U.S. calls Pakistan student group wing of banned militant organization

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday announced it was adding the student wing of the Pakistan-based militant organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, to its list of "foreign terrorist organizations."

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, is an anti-Indian militant group with historical ties to Pakistan's top spy agencies. It has been accused of orchestrating numerous attacks, including a 2008 assault in Mumbai that killed 166 people, six of them Americans.

The State Department move against the student group, Al-Muhammadia Students, came as the Treasury Department added two Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders to the U.S. list of "specially designated global terrorists," subjecting them to U.S. sanctions.

LeT was banned by the Pakistani government in 2002 but it has continued operating through front organizations, according to U.S. officials, and their leaders conduct public rallies and interviews.

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The State Department announced that it amended the designation of LeT as a "foreign terrorist organization" to include what it called the group's student wing.

"Since the original designation occurred, LeT has repeatedly changed its name and created front organizations in an effort to avoid sanctions," the State Department said, adding that the student group aided senior LeT leaders in recruiting and other activities.

The State Department action subjected the student group to sanctions, including a ban on Americans providing or attempting to provide it with material support.

The Treasury Department said it was adding Muhammad Sarwar and Shahid Mahmood to the U.S. list of "specially designated global terrorists," freezing any U.S. property or other assets they hold and banning Americans from doing business with them. Both are involved in fund-raising activities, it said.

Sarwar, the department said, is the LeT leader in Lahore and Mahmood is a senior LeT leader in Karachi and has routinely traveled outside Pakistan on the group's behalf.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Bill Trott)

 
 
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