India gives info tying Mumbai gunmen to Pakistan
2008-12-10 05:40:57 GMT2008-12-10 13:40:57 (Beijing Time)
People pay tributes to those killed in recent terror attacks in Mumbai as they take out a procession in Allahabad, India, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
MUMBAI, India – Police released names and photographs of suspected Islamic militants who staged the bloody three-day siege of Mumbai and said they uncovered new details about the gunmen — including hometowns in Pakistan.
The new information, if confirmed, would bolster India's claim that the attack was launched from Pakistan and was released as the Pakistani government announced more arrests in raids on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that India blames for the assault on its financial capital.
Indian officials maintained a skeptical silence about the reported crackdown and arrest of an alleged mastermind of the Mumbai assault, which killed 171 people, raised fears of war between the nuclear-armed neighbors and eroded U.S. hopes for a regional push against al-Qaida and other extremists.
Mumbai's chief police investigator, Rakesh Maria, showed photographs of eight of the nine slain attackers — some from identity cards, but three were gruesome pictures of maimed faces. The body of the ninth was too badly burned, he said. The 10th gunman, previously identified as Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was captured alive.
Maria said all 10 attackers were from Pakistan, most of them Punjab province, and were between the ages of 20 and 28. He did not say how police had tracked down their hometowns, although they have been interrogating the lone surviving gunman.
The attackers, who apparently landed by boat on the Mumbai coast the night of Nov. 26, were led by Ismail Khan, 25, Maria said, describing him as a battle-hardened Lashkar veteran. The picture released shows a broad-shouldered man with a square, determined face.
As they split up to attack different targets, Khan went with Kasab to a crowded train station where they emptied assault rifles at the helpless passengers before escaping out the back.
Sebastian D'Souza, a journalist who followed them, taking pictures, described the pair as "backpackers with assault rifles."
"They were firing from their hips. Very professional. Very cool," D'Souza told The Associated Press after the attack.
Khan was eventually shot dead and Kasab captured, but not before they had killed the head of Mumbai's Anti-Terror Force and several other officers.
Another picture showed Babar Imran, a gunman who has been described as "hauntingly calm" while holding six people hostage at a Jewish center run by the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Imran, with his long thin face and sleepy eyes, used the alias Abu Akasha and came from the central Pakistani city of Multan, Maria said.
During the time he held Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg; Holtsberg's wife, Rivka; and four other visitors to the center, Imran repeatedly answered Holtsberg's mobile phone, talking to representatives of the Chabad movement in New York.
Imran spoke softly, said P.V. Viswanath, who translated the phone conversations in Urdu for Chabad officials.
"I think that shows something about his state of mind, it was very calm and collected," Viswanath told the AP in New York, where he is a finance professor at Pace University.
Viswanath, who grew up in Mumbai and is an Orthodox Jew, said Imran didn't display any anger or hatred for Jews. "He didn't say anything about Israel or make any anti-Semitic comments."
Commandos who stormed the Jewish center after two days found all six hostages dead. The Holtzbergs' 2-year-old son, Moshe, survived when he was whisked out of the building by his nanny and another worker.
"It's very hard to say the pictures meant anything for us emotionally," Menachem Brod, a Chabad spokesman in Israel, said of the photos released Tuesday. "They are the ultimate evil."
The youngest attacker was identified as 20-year-old Shoaib, alias Soheb, who was said to come from Punjab's Narowal district. He was among those who fought off Indian commandos for three days at the luxury Taj Mahal hotel, Maria said.
Faiez Ahmad, a senior police official in Multan, Pakistan, where two of the gunmen allegedly came from, said authorities will check into the information if it is officially communicated to the Pakistani government. "We will act according to the law of the land," Ahmad said.
With India and the U.S. pressing Pakistan to crack down on Lashkar, Pakistani authorities shut some of the group's offices and detained 20 more people Tuesday, officials said, though they ruled out extraditing any to India.
A day earlier, the Pakistani government said its troops raided a Lashkar camp in Pakistan's portion of disputed Kashmir on Sunday and arrested Zaki-ur-Lakhvi, the reputed planner of the Mumbai attack, along with 11 other suspected militants.
On Tuesday, troops raided at least five more Lashkar offices, acting on information gleaned from Lakhvi, a senior Pakistani security official said. He said none of the latest 20 people detained were among those named by India as suspects in the attack on Mumbai.
A Lashkar official confirmed there had been more raids on the group's offices, but declined to elaborate. Both he and the security official insisting on speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.
India's Foreign Ministry again declined to comment on the crackdown in Pakistan.
Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, said that reflected a cynicism bred of previous, unfulfilled promises from Pakistan to rein in extremists.
"Just having the leaders under house arrest or detaining them doesn't mean that they are taking serious action," Mansingh said.
There have also been signs that the Mumbai attackers may have had help from within India. Maria said police were bringing a man, identified only as Sabauddin, to Mumbai for questioning along with an Indian national, Faheem Ansari.
Sabauddin and Ansari were arrested together in northern India last February. Ansari was allegedly carrying hand-drawn sketches of Mumbai hotels, the train terminal and other sites in the city that were targeted in the attack two weeks ago. The two have been in jail since their arrest.
Maria gave no other information on Sabauddin, including his nationality, but said he might have information on the attack.
Also Tuesday, Maria said the captured gunman, Kasab, had asked to be allowed to write a letter to his father in which he expressed regret for participating in the attack.
Maria said that in the letter, written in Urdu, Kasab says "he has been misled by these people," apparently referring to those who recruited him. "Youngsters in the village should be told not to believe in this indoctrination," Maria quoted the letter as saying.
The new head of Mumbai's Jewish center vowed Tuesday to restore the facility.
"We are staying at the same center and will rebuild it even nicer than it was," said Rabbi Dov Goldberg, an Israeli who was sent by Chabad. "We will do all that's necessary for security and for safety," he said.
The owners of the Taj Mahal hotel planned an interfaith prayer ceremony to rededicate the building, although it isn't clear how long it will take to rebuild the 105-year-old structure.
The company said it hoped "the hotel will shine again in tribute to the people who fell during the terrorist attacks."