Lashkar-e-Toiba (Soldiers of the Pure) is one of the most feared groups fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, along with four other Islamic
groups, in January 2002 amid pressure that followed the 11 September attacks in the US.
Until then Lashkar, with its reputation for being purely
focused on fighting India in Kashmir, was able to operate openly inside Pakistan, raising
funds and recruiting members.
Almost every shop in the main bazaar of every town, large
or small, in Pakistan had a Lashkar collection box to raise funds for the struggle in Kashmir.
Laskhar had no involvement in sectarian attacks in Pakistan and its leaders were often critical of other militant groups operating in Kashmir and Afghanistan who also took part in the sectarian Sunni-Shia bloodshed within Pakistan.
Problems arose, however, when some breakaway Lashkar members
began to disagree with President Musharraf's strategy post 9/11 and were blamed for anti-government attacks in Pakistan.
In the months after 9/11, breakaway factions of militant
groups started to come together under a loose anti-US banner.
This meant that Lashkar members came into contact with the
After the ban, the government did not try to break up Lashkar
but it restricted the movements of its leaders and the group's members were told to keep a low profile.
By mid-2002 it had renamed itself Jama'at ud Dawa (Party
of the Calling).
It said it would continue its activities in Pakistan-administered
Kashmir. India believes the group is now more factionalised.
Lashkar has been blamed for bomb attacks last October in
the Indian capital Delhi that killed more than 60 people.
It has not admitted carrying out those attacks. But it does
claim responsibility for attacking an army barracks at the Red Fort in Delhi in 2000.
Three people died in the December 2000 attack at the 17th
Century fort, one of the capital's most famous landmarks.
The massive earthquake in the region in October 2005 has
also affected its fortunes.
Since then, the group has again been allowed to openly collect
funds in Pakistan, officially for reconstruction work. Many of their offices have reopened and its members
have played a prominent role in rebuilding work.
Lashkar rose to prominence nearly 10 years ago and has often
been blamed by the Indian authorities for carrying out armed attacks, not only in Kashmir, but also elsewhere in India.
Police accused it of carrying out deadly explosions in the
city of Mumbai (Bombay) in August 2003 that killed 55 people and injured 180.
India also says it was involved in the most audacious attack on Indian soil - the armed raid
on India's parliament in December 2001 that brought India
and Pakistan to the brink of all-out war.
Until its ban in 2002, Lashkar had never been shy of accepting
responsibility for most of the armed attacks against Indian military targets.
However, it always denied killing civilians, maintaining
that it was against the organisation's religious belief.
And it strongly rejected the Indian claim of its involvement
in the attack on the parliament in Delhi.
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad
says Lashkar-e-Toiba was formed soon after the birth of its parent religious organisation, Markaz Dawa ul Irshad in the late
The Markaz (Centre for Preaching) was set up in the town
of Muridke outside Lahore by a former professor of engineering at the University of Punjab,
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.
Spread over several hectares, the Markaz soon became known
for preaching hardline views on Islam.
Some of its annual congregations attracted as many as 100,000
people, during which calls were made for jihad or holy war.
By 1994 Lashkar-e-Toiba had emerged as the militant wing
of the organisation.
Unlike most other Kashmir militant groups, a majority of
its members were non-Kashmiri, and its headquarters were also based in Pakistan.
Lashkar generally shunned the alliance of the Kashmiri militant
groups known as Muttehadda Jihad Council or the United Jihad Council, preferring to act alone.
Initially it was ignored by most other groups, but earned
their respect once it introduced the concept of "Fedayaeen fighters" to carry out daring attacks against the Indian troops