MUMBAI, India — As the Indian city of Mumbai commemorated the 2008 terror attacks that left 168 people dead, relatives of the victims said Sunday that they’re angry Pakistan has released a militant linked to the massacre.
Swati Ajay Gavande, the widow of a slain police officer, said Hafiz Saeed should never have been released from house arrest. She said his release makes her sad for all the grieving families.
Her husband, Ajay Gavande, was among those shot and killed after 10 gunmen fanned out across Mumbai and attacked hotels, a major train station and a Jewish center on Nov. 26, 2008.
People across Mumbai gathered Sunday to mark the ninth anniversary of the attacks by laying wreaths and lighting candles.
Shyam Bihari, who was working at a railway station stall when the attacks began and was shot in the shoulder, said Saeed was responsible for the deaths.
“I feel really sad, but I can’t do anything,” he said. “I prayed they would put him behind bars for his lifetime, so that no more innocent people would die.”
Indian and U.S. authorities were also outraged at Friday’s release of Saeed. He ran an organization widely believed to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, which India believes was behind the attack.
In a statement Saturday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. “strongly condemns” Saeed’s release and urged that he be re-arrested and prosecuted.
“Saeed’s release, after Pakistan’s failure to prosecute or charge him, sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s commitment to combatting international terrorism and belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil,” Sanders said.
She said further inaction by Pakistan would have “repercussions” for bilateral relations and for Pakistan’s global reputation.
Maninderjeet Singh Bitta, chairman of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, said the release by Pakistan was adding salt to India’s wounds. He said he would ask India’s government to raise the matter with the United Nations.