Pakistan court grants bail to accused mastermind of Mumbai attacks

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, accused plotter of 2008 Mumbai attacks, freed on $5,000 bail

A Pakistani court granted bail Thursday to the accused mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed harsh punishment for terrorists in the wake of the deadly massacre at a Pakistani school.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of seven Pakistani nationals accused of planning the attacks that killed 166 people in India’s financial capital, was released on $5,000 bail over the objections of the Pakistani government prosecutor.

The Press Trust of India reported that Lakhvi filed his bail application on Wednesday, a day after Pakistani Taliban militants raided a school in the northern city of Peshawar and slaughtered 148 people, 132 of them children.

Officials say Lakhvi was the operations commander for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned militant group that has long waged attacks against India. He and the six other defendants are facing trial in the military headquarters city of Rawalpindi, but the slow-moving proceedings have been one of the main obstacles to repairing India-Pakistan ties.

His release came a day after Sharif promised a new national counter-terrorism plan following the Peshawar killings, saying “our aim is to clean this region of terrorism.”

Sharif lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism cases, paving the way for dozens of death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals to be executed. However, analysts say the Pakistani government has long distinguished between militant groups that target the Pakistani state -- such as the Pakistani Taliban -- and so-called good militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba that attack arch-rival India.

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