U.S. and India see link to militants in Pakistan
WASHINGTON: American and Indian authorities said Tuesday that there was now little doubt that militants inside Pakistan had carried out the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Indian officials said they had identified three or four masterminds of the deadly assault, stepping up pressure on Pakistan to act against the perpetrators of one of the worst terrorist attacks in India's history.
The emerging consensus came as the Bush administration increased its diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan over the attacks, dispatching the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, to the region. He was to join Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Both officials are expected to issue stern warnings to the government of Pakistan to crack down on militant groups in Pakistan near its borders with Indian-administered Kashmir and with Afghanistan, top American aides said.
Two senior American officials said Tuesday that the United States had warned India in mid-October of possible terrorist attacks against "touristy areas frequented by Westerners" in Mumbai, but that the information was not specific. Nonetheless, the officials said, the warning echoed other general alerts this year by India's intelligence agency, raising questions about the adequacy of India's counterterrorism measures.
Details of the attack planners also became clearer on Tuesday. The only gunman captured by the police told his interrogators that one of main plotters was a fugitive known to Indian authorities: Yusuf Muzammil, a leader of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to a senior Indian police official and a Western official.
The group, though officially banned and once focused primarily on Indian claims to disputed Kashmir, maintains its leadership in Pakistan and is believed to have moved its militant networks to Pakistan's tribal areas.
Muzammil, who is the right-hand man to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvhi, the operational commander of the group, talked by satellite phone to the attackers from Pakistan when the gunmen were in the Taj and Oberoi hotels, the Western official said.
The attackers also used the cellphones of people they killed to call back to Muzammil somewhere in Pakistan, the official said.
The mounting evidence increased the pressure on the United States to find a way to resolve the tensions between Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed neighbors. The officials said there was still no evidence that Pakistan's government had a hand in the operation, although investigators were still searching for clues of outside support for the terrorists.
"There's very little doubt that L.-e.-T. is responsible, but beyond that we need to learn more," said a senior American official, who was briefed on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing its continuing nature.
Indian officials sidestepped questions on the prospects of a military standoff and obliquely suggested that New Delhi may suspend peace talks with Pakistan, under way for nearly five years.
The Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said he could not comment on military options available to his government, except to say that "every sovereign country has its right to protect its territorial integrity."
Senior Bush administration officials sought to tamp down tensions. "It's important for there to be restraint on both sides and — but it's also important to find out who was responsible," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.
Fresh information about the attacks, which hit two luxury hotels, a train station and other targets and killed 173 people, spilled forward Tuesday, even as the Indian police acknowledged that it would take longer to get to the bottom of the gunmen's identities.
The 10 heavily armed young men had all been trained by former army officers, the Mumbai police chief, Hassan Gafoor, told reporters. Though he refused to specify, the implication was that the army officers were Pakistani.
The attackers came on a three-day journey by sea from Karachi, he said. The one suspect in custody said he was from Pakistan, and the authorities were verifying the identities of nine others who were killed.
Though the suspect in their custody has given no more than aliases for his nine partners, the Mumbai police insisted that all were Pakistanis. And all had been trained at the same place, the authorities said, and were on a suicide mission.
The investigation has not yet turned up any links to organized crime figures or local collaborators, Gafoor said, though it was clear that the attackers tried to pass themselves off as Indians and had wrapped their campaign in local grievances.
They carried Indian college student identification cards, the police said. They called an Indian television station early on in their three-day standoff to broadcast what are common complaints of Indian Muslims, including the 2002 attacks on Muslims by Hindus in western Gujarat State, which left nearly 1,000 dead.
And in one of the most chilling accounts from last week, when a diner at the Kandahar restaurant at the Oberoi Hotel asked his tormentors, "What have we done?" a gunman retorted: "What was done in Godhra?" Godhra is the town in Gujarat where the sectarian violence began. Then, the gunman shot the diner, according to a witness who survived.
"Their main intention is to say this is local homegrown terrorism," said Rakesh Maria, the city's joint commissioner of police, who is heading up the investigation, said late Tuesday night. He said that the confessions of the suspect in his custody had put to rest those claims.
On Monday, the Indian Foreign Ministry summoned Pakistan's high commissioner and handed him a list of some 20 suspects wanted in connection with terrorist attacks and pending criminal cases. The Pakistani information minister, Sherry Rehman, said the government would "have to look at it formally."
Pakistani leaders appeared to be waiting for the arrival of Mullen, who has met with the Pakistani military chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan, on many occasions. Secretary Rice is scheduled to land in Islamabad on Thursday.
Among those on the list of 20, Indian and American officials said, is an organized-crime boss, Dawood Ibrahim, who was implicated in serial bombings in Mumbai in 1993.
Another is Masood Azhar, head of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistan-based militant group, who was freed in 1999 in exchange for hostages on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar.
Yet another, the Pakistani news media reported, was Haffiz Mohammed Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Saeed lives in Lahore. After Lashkar-e-Taiba, was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002, it formed again under a new name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led by Saeed.
In an interview with Geo television on Tuesday, Saeed denied that he had been involved in the Mumbai attacks or that he had given approval for them. "India has always accused me without any evidence," he said.
The new group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is organized as a charity and Saeed is now recognized as the "acceptable face of fundamentalism" in Pakistan, according to Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Pakistani Islamic groups and author of a recent book on Pakistan, "Descent Into Chaos."
At a meeting at Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, foreign diplomats urged Pakistani officials Tuesday to take firm action against terrorism suspects, according to two diplomats who were there.
The diplomats also emphasized that the Mumbai attacks were not just a Pakistan-India matter but were of international proportions and involved the deaths of a number of foreigners, one diplomat said.
The Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, made a short televised statement on Tuesday saying that Pakistan was offering to establish a "joint investigating mechanism and joint commission" with India.
But pressure for Pakistani action against militant groups, or an Indian response, has mounted with each gory detail emerging from the Mumbai attacks.
Ashok Pawar, a local police constable who arrived at the Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel shortly after the gunmen lay siege to it, said he could see their carefully scripted tableau in the closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel's second floor security room.
In two teams of two, the gunmen kicked down hotel room doors, forced guests to come out into the hallway, tied the men's hands behind their backs, usually with a bedsheet, and herded their captives into one room. During the operation, Pawar said, the gunmen made several long phone calls.
Gafoor, the police chief, said their phone records were still being investigated. But the Western official said it was now clear that many of those calls were going to the attacks' organizers.
The gunmen soon realized they were being watched, and so they smashed the cameras, lobbed a grenade and started firing at Pawar and his colleagues in the security room. One of them was shot in the neck. Pawar managed to escape.