ISLAMABAD (Staff Report) – Pakistani authorities are ‘seriously thinking’ of taking action against Maulana Abdul Aziz, the chief cleric of Laal or Red mosque in Islamabad, after a meeting with American officials who found links between the radical mosque and the woman who took part in the ISIS-inspired San Bernardino massacre, a British daily claimed on Saturday.
Pakistani officials, however, denied any such meeting and termed the news item baseless and unfounded.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister House said that no meeting took place in London between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a US official after it transpired that a Pakistani female, Tashfeen Malik, who and he husband mowed down 14 people in an attack in Sane Francisco, had links with a cleric in Islamabad.
According to the Daily Mail Online, the US officials handed over information to their Pakistani counterparts about links between Tashfeen Malik and the Red Mosque in Islamabad, in a meeting at London.
However, it is unclear currently how law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the US have connected Malik to the mosque.
According to reports, the US official conveyed a blunt message from US President Barrack Obama to the prime minister regarding the involvement of Pakistani citizen in the attack.
Laal Masjid or Red Mosque is infamous for its links to violence and authorities in Pakistan are now considering taking action against its radical preacher after the disclosures by US officials.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on Wednesday, a US intelligence official told Mail Online that his agency was investigating Sayeed Farook’s ties to known terror groups abroad, saying: “The United States will leave no stone unturned.
“This is what we do. If he has ever communicated with ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, or any other known Islamic threat group, we’ll find out.”
Malik is now known to have proclaimed her loyalty to ISIS shortly before the attack.
Daily Mail reported that American officials held crisis talks with one of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at the country’s High Commission in London.
Pakistani authorities were described as ‘seriously thinking’ of how to take action against Aziz, the chief cleric of the mosque, the newspaper reported.
Malik was born in Pakistan and lived there until the age of two then raised in Saudi Arabia, where she lived in Riyadh where her father, Gulzar Ahmed Malik is thought still to live.
She returned to Pakistan in 2010 to study pharmacy at the Bahauddin Zakariyah University in Multan.
Public records show that she was a high-achieving student. There are conflicting accounts of her educational achievements. She completed a three-year master’s degree in pharmacy.
She was also listed as being in the fourth year of a D Pharm degree in 2014, although she may not have completed it.
Intelligence agencies will be examining her time in the Punjab. But the link to the Red Mosque may prompt the most rapid action by Pakistani authorities.
It achieved international notoriety in 2007, when it was at the center of a bloody siege as fundamentalists clashed with security forces. The siege came after months of increasingly violent demonstrations in favor of sharia law in Pakistan and in support of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
When rioters set a government ministry on fire, government troops took action against the mosque and an eight-day stand-off with running firefights ensued.
The siege was ended when Pakistani special forces moved in. Accounts of the number of deaths vary from 91 claimed by Pakistan police to around 300 by two television stations, to as high as 1,000 by fundamentalist political parties.
The siege prompted Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to call for Pakistan’s people to rise up against its government, but led to the discovery of huge amounts of heavy weapons concealed in the heart of the country’s capital city.
It did not, however, end the mosque’s infamy. In the course of the siege one of its two leaders, Aziz, escaped dressed in a burka. He was freed from custody in 2009 and welcomed by cheering mobs and since then has become notorious for his rhetoric. Maulana is a title referring to his leadership of preaching at the mosque.
In 2013 he named a library after Osama bin Laden, and last year said that he supported ISIS.
He also refused to condemn a massacre of schoolchildren in Rawalpindi, which proved too radical for even some of his mosque, who held demonstrations against him.
Tashfeen Malik came to the US last year on a K-1 – fiance’s – visa and received a green card after marrying Farook. The two are believed to have met online and married abroad, possibly in Saudi Arabia. Farook’s lawyer has denied that he had traveled to Pakistan.
She married Farook on August 16 in Riverside, California, with the marriage documents showing that her father was named as Gulzar Akmed Malik – although other records in Pakistan spell his middle name as Ahmed – while her mother was Nasim Akhter.