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Pakistan now holds the key to probe: investigators

Praveen Swami

No evidence so far of local involvement in Mumbai massacre

PHOTO: AFP

PEACE MARCH: Activists hold up banners and placards during a peace rally in memory of those killed in the Mumbai attacks, outside the Taj Mahal hotel on Sunday. —

MUMBAI: Investigators probing last week’s massacre in Mumbai have reached a point where little progress can now be made unless Pakistan arrests key suspects based in that country, police and intelligence officials have told The Hindu.

India has so far assembled several pieces of evidence that link the Mumbai fidayeen attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders based in Muridke near Lahore in Pakistan.

Much of the evidence rests on the testimony of arrested Lashkar terrorist Amjad Amir Kamaal, a resident of the small village of Faridkot in the Okara district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

According to Kamaal, the 10-man Lashkar fidayeen team, of which he was a part, left Karachi on a small boat, and then boarded the merchant vessel al-Hussaini. After encountering Indian Coast Guard vessels on February 19, the team hijacked the Kuber, a Porbandar-based fishing boat that had been blown off course.

Research and Analysis Wing officials also say they have records of phone calls made by Lashkar unit from a satellite phone, which was recovered from the Kuber soon after the attacks. According to RAW sources, several phone calls were made to senior Lashkar commanders in Pakistan, including its operations chief, who is known by the code-names Muzammil, Yusuf and Abu Hurrera.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has promised to provide all possible support for the investigation. However, several Pakistani commentators, including that country’s current Ambassador to Washington D.C., Husain Haqqani, have in the past pointed to close links between jihadist groups operating in that country and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Police were investigating the possible role of a Mumbai smuggling syndicate run by city resident Ali Mohammad Sheikh. Investigators had explored the possibility that Sheikh may have been involved in facilitating the landing of the 10 fidayeen on the coast and providing local infrastructure for target reconnaissance.

However, police sources said, both source reports and Kamaal’s interrogation suggested that no local Lashkar supporters were involved in the execution of Wednesday’s terror attack.

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