Pakistan has made a start but must do more, U.S. says

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 9, 2008 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Indian police Tuesday made public what they claimed were the names and hometowns in Pakistan of the Islamist suspects who terrorized Mumbai, stepping up the pressure on Islamabad to intensify a crackdown on Muslim militants.

In Washington, a senior State Department official said that a series of Pakistani raids on bases of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic militant group that's accused of mounting the Mumbai attacks, were the start of a "credible effort" by the Pakistan's fragile civilian government to crack down on those responsible for the Mumbai assault.

Washington, however, thinks that Pakistan will have to do much more to neutralize Laskar and other Islamic extremist groups that it's has allowed to flourish, said the senior diplomat, who requested anonymity because of fragility of the situation.

Islamabad must "investigate, identify, stop these groups, stop these individuals," he said, noting that the more than 170 people killed during the three-day rampage in Mumbai included six Americans. "We need a thorough effort and a credible effort."

Mumbai police said that nine of the 10 Mumbai attackers were from Pakistan's eastern Punjab province, which borders India, and the leader was from North West Frontier Province, close to the Afghan border. The men were all said to be in their 20s. Some of the names were aliases.

A tenth gunman, Ajmal Ameer Kasab, was captured alive, and McClatchy established Saturday that he comes from Faridkot, a village in Punjab.

Pakistan for the first time officially confirmed that it had staged a series of raids and arrested the suspected operational commander and other members of Lashkar-e-Taiba — Army of the Pure — which India and the U.S. accuse of staging the attacks.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, however, said that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and other Lashkar-e-Taiba militants won't be extradited, and he warned that Pakistan is "fully prepared" to defend itself should India retaliate militarily.

"They are Pakistani citizens and will be dealt with according to the law of the land," Qureshi said in the eastern city of Multan. "No arrested Pakistani will be handed over to India. The question doesn't even arise."

India and Pakistan have no extradition treaty, complicating efforts by the Bush administration to defuse a potential confrontation between the nuclear-armed rivals over Mumbai that would leave al Qaida and its allies free to intensify their war against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

As part of that effort, Pakistan will have to show that its powerful military-run intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, is cooperating in the effort to "end extremism," the senior State Department official said.

Indian officials have implicated the ISI in the Mumbai assault, but Pakistan rejects the charge. ISI has long supported Islamic militants fighting in Afghanistan and on the Indian-controlled side of the disputed Kashmir region.

U.S. officials say that the ISI has had close ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, the relationship diminished after Pakistan banned the group under U.S. pressure in 2002, and there is no evidence of official complicity in the Mumbai attacks, they said.

The senior State Department official said that it isn't clear just how far Pakistan would have to go to stave off Indian military action that the Bush administration fears could spark the fourth Indo-Pakistan war since their independence from Britain in 1947.

"I think they (the Indian government) probably doesn't know," he said. "There is a lot of anger (over the Mumbai attacks) and a lot of pressure on this government to respond."

Pakistan Tuesday extended the crackdown begun Sunday, raiding more Lashkar-e-Taiba offices and arresting 20 more people, officials said. Pakistan news reports said authorities also "restricted the movements" of Masood Azhar, the leader of another extremist group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, long sought by India.

Mumbai's chief police investigator, Rakesh Maria, said three of the 10 men, including Kasab, were from Okara district, three were from Multan, all in southern Punjab, two were from Faisalabad and one from Sialkot, in central Punjab.

The 25-year-old suspected ringleader, Ismail Khan, came from Dera Ismail Khan, a city in North West Frontier Province where Islamic extremists groups are strong, Maria said. Khan participated in previous Lashkar-e-Taiba operations, he said.

"All of them were given the aliases during training to prevent them from knowing each others' original names," Maria told reporters.

While sailing for three days from the Pakistani port of Karachi to Mumbai, however, the group came to know each other's names and where they lived, Maria said. The information appeared to have come from the ongoing interrogation of Kasab.

Some of the photographs released were found on fake identity documents recovered from the men. Others were gory photographs taken after their deaths. One assailant was so badly burned that his picture wasn't released.

According to separate leaks from Mumbai police, Khan was handpicked by Lakhvi and trained by a former Pakistani army officer named Abdul Rehman.

Pakistani security forces arrested Lakhvi, who is from the Okara area, on Sunday in a raid on a Lashkar-e-Taiba base on the Pakistani-controlled side of Kashmir.

Mumbai police also claim to found items made in Pakistan on the attackers, including toiletries and a pistol manufactured in the city of Peshawar.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari vowed in a New York Times op-ed piece that his country would bring those responsible for the Mumbai attacks to justice.

"Pakistan will take action against the non-state actors found within our territory, treating them as criminals, terrorists and murderers," Zardari wrote. "Not only are the terrorists not linked to the government of Pakistan in any way, we are their targets and we continue to be their victims."

(Shah is a special correspondent. Landay reported from Washington. Special correspondent Padma Rao Sundarji in New Delhi contributed to this article.)

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Asif Ali Zardari's op-ed in the New York Times

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McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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