Headquartered in Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Taiba (LT) is a group of Kashmiri terrorists that was formed in 1990 as the military wing of Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), a Pakistani-based Islamic fundamentalist organization with close ties to the Taliban. Active in Jammu and Kashmir, a contested territory between India and Pakistan, LT’s goal is to violently wrest control of that region from India. The organization’s membership is composed of at least several hundred individuals in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir, and India’s southern Kashmir and Doda regions.
LT trains its recruits in two phases. First is a 21-day basic phase caled Daura Aam, during which new members are exhorted to devote themselves fully to jihad, or holy war. This is followed by a three-month special phase known as Daura Khaas, which provides training in weapons, ambush and survival tactics. Directing its violence against both military and civilian targets, LT has traditionally trained its new recruits in madrassas (Islamic seminars) located in Afghanistan and Pakistani Kashmir, though after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the LT-affiliated madrassas in that country were closed.
Heavily influenced by MDI’s fundamentalist doctrines, LT seeks to help establish a pan-Islamic rule in Central Asia. Some of its leaders have goals that are still more ambitious, advocating a worldwide jihad for the supremacy of Islam on every continent. Strongly anti-Western and anti-Indian, LT received much support from the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency until December 26, 2001, when the United States designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization. That same month, Pakistan froze LT assets at America’s request; about three weeks thereafter, Pakistan also added the organization to its list of banned terrorist groups.
LT has carried out many attacks against Indian troops and civilians in Kashmir — usually by use of small arms, explosives, and rocket-propelled grenades; occasionally it stages suicide missions in which groups of two to five LT members attack Indian troops. LT militants also have perpetrated massacres of non-Muslim civilians, especially Hindus and Sikhs. Disguising themselves as Indian Special Forces, these militants round up civilians in remote villages and summarily execute them. For instance, on July 13, 2002, LT members disguised as Hindu holy men killed 27 slum dwellers — including 13 women and a child — in Jammu. In August 2000, another LT attack killed approximately 100 people in Kashmir. In recent years, there have been reports of LT members fighting in Chechnya, Bosnia, parts of the Middle East, and the Philippines, suggesting the possibility that the organization has close ties to al Qaeda.
LT military operations in Kashmir are led by Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, who filled this position after LT founder Hafiz Muhammed Saeed was arrested by Pakistani authorities in December 2001.
In 2003, a group of eleven jihadists in Virginia were indicted for conspiring with Lashkar-i-Taiba to carry out terrorist attacks in Kashmir. One of organizers of this cell, Randal Todd “Ismail” Royer, was a communications specialist for the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society; Royer pled guilty to the charges against him.