Lal Masjid’s radical cleric denies links with California shooter

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Pakistan on Saturday denied reports in international and local media claiming that officials from the United States (US) had a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding the alleged link between Tashfeen Malik – the female shooter in the California rampage – and Lal Masjid and its radical cleric Abdul Aziz, just as the latter denied any link with the female shooter.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s House said news reports regarding the meeting of a special US envoy with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London to discuss the California tragedy are ‘baseless’ and ‘incorrect’.

Reports had claimed that US officials had delivered a message regarding the alleged link between Malik, and Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in London.

Meanwhile in Islamabad, Lal Masjid’s Abdul Aziz expressed sadness over the killings at a social services centre in California, saying “Islam does not permit attacks on innocent people.” Aziz said that he had also condemned the Paris attacks but was still being presented as a terrorist or a terror sympathiser in the media.

“I swear, I do not know Tashfeen Malik and have never been photographed with her,” he said in a statement issued on Saturday. “I have never even been photographed with my wife and daughters. How can you imagine me being photographed with a na-mahram (woman who is not related to me),” he asked.

He said women sometimes come to him asking for advice, but he usually cannot recognise them because most come wearing face veils. He added that this would be the only way he could have possibly have had any interaction with Malik.

Umme Hassan, Aziz’s wife and the principal of the Jamia Hafsa seminary, also supported her husband, saying he rarely gives interview to female journalists, and whenever he did give one, she or one of their daughters would sit in the room with Aziz.

“I can say with complete assurance that Malik never took a photograph with him,” she said.

Malik and her American-born husband, Rizwan Farook, burst into a year-end party in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire at Farook’s co-workers, killing 14 and wounding 21.

They were later shot dead by the police after a gun battle.