WASHINGTON - THE United States on Thursday slapped new sanctions on Pakistan-based extremists who have targeted India, on the eve of a trip by President Barack Obama aimed at shoring up relations with New Delhi.

The Treasury Department announced a freeze on US assets held by the radical Islamist groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad and a ban on any transactions with them by US citizens.

While the United States already considered the pair to be terrorist groups, the Treasury Department blacklisted specific fronts and individuals including Azam Cheema, seen as a key commander of the bloody 2008 assault on Mumbai.

Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba 'have proven both their willingness and ability to execute attacks against innocent civilians,' said Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The Treasury action 'is an important step in incapacitating the operational and financial networks of these deadly organisations,' he said.

Muslim extremists launched a string of simultaneous attacks on Mumbai, India's financial capital, in November 2008, killing 166 people dead and injuring more than 300 others. Mr Obama will commemorate the attacks when he visits Mumbai as the first stop on his trip. He will stay overnight at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, a Mumbai landmark partially ravaged by the attack.

US targets Pakistan militants