Monday, May 22, 2006

Reunited: boys saved from slavers

And This is a man who denounces western "depravity".

From The Sunday Times:
Lahore, Pak.
A SENIOR member of an Islamic organisation linked to Al-Qaeda is funding his activities through the kidnapping of Christian children who are sold into slavery in Pakistan. The Sunday Times has established that Gul Khan, a wealthy militant who uses the base of Jamaat-ud Daawa (JUD) near Lahore, is behind a cruel trade in boys aged six to 12.

They are abducted from remote Christian villages in the Punjab and fetch nearly £1,000 each from buyers who consign them to a life of misery in domestic servitude or in the sex trade. Khan was exposed in a sting organised by American and Pakistani missionaries who decided to save 20 such boys and return them to their homes. Using a secret camera, they filmed him accepting $28,500 (£15,000) from a Pakistani missionary posing as a businessman who said he wanted to set up an operation in which the boys would beg for cash on the streets. Khan was observed driving from the meeting with a knapsack full of cash to the JUD headquarters at Muridke, near Lahore. The base was funded by Osama Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader, in the late 1990s and the JUD’s assets were frozen last month by the US Treasury after it was designated a terrorist organisation. The US State Department declared the JUD a front for another organisation, Lashkar-i-Toiba, a terrorist group banned in Pakistan which joined with Al-Qaeda in an attempt to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf in 2003. Khan, who regularly stays at the JUD’s base, broke his promise to hand over the 20 boys on receipt of the cash and took the Pakistani missionary’s assistant hostage while he checked that the dollars were genuine. The boys were eventually freed in a dishevelled and malnourished state after being locked in a room for five months during which they suffered frequent beatings. Last week I accompanied six of the boys on journeys of up to 15 hours to their homes, where they were greeted with astonishment and jubilation by families who had given them up for dead. The mother of Akash Aziz, who was kidnapped as he played with his friends after school, was so astonished that she could barely move or speak at first. The undercover missionaries have demanded the prosecution of Khan and an investigation into his work for the JUD, which claims to have created a "pure Islamic environment" at Muridke. Hafez Muhamed Sayeed, its leader, was accused of inciting riots in Pakistan this year with speeches denouncing western "depravity" after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

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