Banner for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
After weeks of signaling the investigation of the Mumbai terror assault would not be traced back to Pakistan, the Pakistani government admitted for the first time that the operation was plotted in and executed from inside Pakistan. The government released its findings today and three Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders have been implicated.
“Some part of the conspiracy took place in Pakistan,” Rehman Malik, the adviser to Prime Minister Gilani said. “We have lodged an FIR [first information request or criminal case] against eight perpetrators, including mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.” Pakistan has charged eight men with “abetting, directing, conspiring and facilitating a terrorist act.”
“We have gone an extra mile in conducting an investigation on the basis of information provided by India and we have proved that we are with the Indian people on the matter,” Malik said in an attempt to ease the tensions with India. Relations with India deteriorated after Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain claimed the investigation proved Pakistani territory was not used for the strike and said India’s evidence “could be fabricated.”
Malik admitted that 10 members of the assault team left from the Pakistani port city of Karachi via boat to conduct the attack on India’s financial capital of Mumbai. He also said the planning and other support activities occurred outside of the country.
Lakhvi is the military commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist outfit that has close links to al Qaeda and is supported by elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency and the military. Zarar Shah, a communication expert for Lashkar-e-Taiba and another leader named Hamad Amin Sadiq also have been charged with involvement in the Mumbai attack.
Shah provided the communications expertise that allowed the Mumbai attackers to talk to their handlers when the terror attack was in progress. Pakistan also traced the e-mail sent by the so-called Indian or Deccan Mujahideen that claimed credit for the attack back to Shah. The Mujahideen is a front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Students Islamic Movement of India, and the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami operating inside India.
Yusuf Muzammil, Lashkar’s senior operations commander, has not been charged. The Indians have said Muzammil was a key leader in the Mumbai attack.
The government has also charged Mohammad Kaif, Mohammad Ashfaq, and Javed Iqbal with involvement in the conspiracy. All six men are in custody. Javed Iqbal, who has been extradited from Spain, is said to have received money that was transferred through a Pakistani foreign exchange.
The Pakistanis have also charged Abu Hamza and Al Qaima with involvement in the attack, but these men are not in custody. Hamza was indentified as being involved in the plot by Sabauddin Ahmed, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative currently in Indian custody.
Pakistan also has detained the owners and crews of the Al Farooq and Al Hussani boats, which were used to transport the assault team from Pakistan to Mumbai. Pakistan has additional requests from India to further the investigation. To aid the interrogation of the lone survivor of the Mumbai attackers, India wants the identities of the Mumbai terrorists, and information on the SIM cards and phones used during the assault.
Lashkar-e-Taiba denounces investigation
A spokesman for the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba accused the Pakistani government of bowing to Indian and US demands and said his group was not involved in the Mumbai attacks.
“Pakistan has surrendered before India,” Abdullah Gaznavi, a spokesman for the terror group said. “LeT was not behind the Mumbai terror attack at all. LeT strongly condemns the filing of FIR [criminal charge],” Gaznawi continued. “It seems that Pakistan has lodged the FIR to get a pat from India and America.”
The Lashkar spokesman claimed the US conspired with India to pressure Pakistan into filing the charges. “We want to ask the Pakistan’s interior ministry chief Rehman Malik whom does he want to please,” Gaznavi said. “The US had lent open support to India and put pressure on Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan has claimed to have cracked down on the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group created after Jamaat was labeled a terrorist outfit by the United Nations Security Council in December 2008.
Last month, Malik claimed that 71 members of the Jamaat-ud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba had been arrested while another 124 others were under observation. Hafiz Saeed, the founder of both Lashkar and Jamaat, is under house arrest.
But Saeed’s house arrest has been described as “a forced vacation.” Police idly stand guard at the home as visitors come and go and deliveries are made. Saeed has been seen leaving his home to preach at a mosque in his neighborhood while police do nothing to stop him.
Pakistan also claimed to have shut down the Markaz-e-Taiba, the headquarters complex run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Muridke, by assigning an administrator and a team of police to monitor activities. But police assigned to monitor the complex stood by as Saifullah Khalid, a leader in the Lashkar-e-Taiba, preached jihad.
“Muslims under the leadership of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa will conquer all South Asia!” Khalid roared. “Nobody can stop us from fighting India!”
Lashkar-e-Taiba also held a rally in Lahore in January 2008 under the guise of a group called the Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal, or the Movement for the Safeguarding of the First Center of Prayer. The Lashkar-e-Taiba flag was flown and senior members of the group addressed the rally.
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