Washington: With Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group that staged the 2008 Mumbai attacks roaming freely in Pakistan, the US suggested that its $10 million reward for information wasn't a bounty on his head.
"As we said at the time that the Rewards for Justice proposal was put out, it is not a bounty," States Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday when asked to comment on an interview the Mumbai attack mastermind had given to the New York Times.
"What it's designed to do is to help obtain information leading to his arrest and conviction," she said after first saying that "I'm not going to dignify the interview with a detailed response."
"So we're looking for people to come forward, whether they are in Pakistan or anywhere else, with information that can stand up in court, can withstand judicial scrutiny, in US or a foreign court, and help create the conviction. So that's what this is about," Nuland said.
Asked if it wasn't kind of odd that she didn't want to dignify Saeed or his interview with a comment, and yet the US was willing to pay $10 million for information about him, Nuland responded: "Well, we're not going to do a back-and-forth with him here."
In response to another question whether the Indian government had so far shared any evidence against Hafiz Saeed with the United States as asked for by the Pakistan government, the spokesperson suggested the query be referred to the Department of Justice..
"I think we made clear when we put forward the Rewards for Justice that we're seeking more information to make the cases, and that's one of the reasons we put those kinds of things out," she said.
At his Lahore compound - a fortified house, office and mosque - Saeed is shielded not only by his supporters, burly men wielding Kalashnikovs outside his door, but also by the Pakistani state, the Times had reported Thursday .
"Saeed's very public life seems more than just an act of mocking defiance against the Obama administration and its bounty," it said citing unnamed analysts.