Mon, December 08, 2008
World > Asia-Pacific

Pakistan targets suspected Mumbai attackers

2008-12-08 08:26:28 GMT2008-12-08 16:26:28 (Beijing Time)

Indian Muslims protest against the Mumbai attacks during a rally in Siliguri, India, Dec 7, 2008. (AFP/Diptendu Dutta)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani troops seized a camp used by the extremist group blamed in the Mumbai attacks and arrested more than 12 people, militants and a security official said Monday.

The raid was the first known action by Islamabad in response to the attacks, which have sharply raised tensions between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India and raised concerns in Washington over its campaign against al-Qaida in the region.

India says the Mumbai siege was carried out and plotted by Pakistani militants belonging to the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba. It and the United States are demanding Pakistan crack down on the perpetrators.

Troops briefly exchanged fire with people at the camp during Sunday's raid close to the town of Muzaffarabad in the Pakistani part of the disputed Kashmir region, the militants said.

A senior intelligence official confirmed the raid and arrests.

He said the detainees were being questioned over any possible links to the Mumbai attacks and several injured people were being treated at a military hospital.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job.

The militants said the camp was used until 2004 by Laskhar-e-Taiba to train recruits to fight Indian rule in its section of the Kashmir. More recently, it was used by Lashkar's parent organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa for education and charity work, they said.

The militants spoke on condition of anonymity because they belong to an illegal organization.

Analysts say Lashkar-e-Taiba was created the with help of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in the 1980s to act as a proxy fighting force in Indian Kashmir.

Many suspect elements within the agencies keep some links with Lashkar and other militants in the country, either to use against India or in neighboring Afghanistan.

The New York Times, citing unidentified American intelligence and counterterrorism officials, reported in a story published Monday that Lashkar has gained strength in recent years with the help of Pakistan's spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence.

The officials cited by the Times say the ISI has shared intelligence to and provided protection for the outlawed group, though there is no evidence to link the spy service to the Mumbai attacks.

Islamabad's young civilian government has denied any of its state agencies were involved in the Mumbai attacks, but said it was possible that the militants were Pakistanis. It has pledged to cooperate with India, noting it too is a victim of terrorism.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over the last 60 years, two over Kashmir. In 2001, an attack by suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants on the parliament building in New Delhi brought the countries close to conflict.

Pakistan has experienced a surge in militant violence since it sided with the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks. As part of the alliance, it allows NATO and America to truck supplies to their forces in Afghanistan through the country.

Early Monday, militants in the northwestern city of Peshawar attacked a terminal for the supply trucks, torching scores of military vehicles waiting shipment, a witness and an Associated Press reporter said.

The attack was the second in as many days on the supply line in the city, showing its vulnerability to militants that control large swaths Pakistan's lawless regions close to Afghanistan.

Terminal laborer Altaf Hussain says several militants stormed the Bilal terminal, firing grenades. They then set fire to up to 50 military vehicles awaiting shipment, he said.

It and other terminals in the city employ lightly armed security guards, aimed more at preventing theft than organized militant assaults,

Up to 75 percent of the fuel, food and other logistical goods for Western forces battling Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan currently pass through Pakistan.

NATO officials say the attacks on the supply line do not affect their operations in Afghanistan, but acknowledge they are looking for other supply routes to the country.


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