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A pink box that India would not give to FBI

Nirupama Subramanian


CHENNAI: United States officials believed that a pink foam-covered box found at one of the 26/11 Mumbai attack sites was crucial to proving the Pakistani links to the attacks, but complained that India was “not forthcoming” about sharing information about it.

A U.S. Embassy cable from Islamabad ( 204888: confidential) sent by Charge d'Affaires Gerald Feierstein on April 30, 2009, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, spoke of Pakistani officials handing over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation a similar box from investigations on Pakistan's side.

The cable said this was “possibly the most important piece of evidence shared [by Pakistan] with the FBI,” and that an analysis of the boxes could help prove that the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan.

“For successful analysis, the FBI still needs the GOI to provide samples of the pink box in India,” the cable said, but pointed to India's reluctance to do so as a “significant hurdle” in the successful prosecution of the case in Pakistan. The cables do not say if India finally shared this bit of evidence.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) found the pink box at a training camp the Mumbai attackers attended in the Sindh province. The cable did not mention the location of the camp. The investigators handed it over to the U.S. Embassy's Legal Attache, a designated FBI official in U.S. diplomatic missions.

The cable noted the turning over of physical evidence by the FIA to the FBI as a significant development.

“The release of physical evidence is a very sensitive issue, and one that could affect the success of the GOP's prosecution. The FIA stressed that this sharing of evidence has to be kept quiet, as any leaks would endanger the prosecution,” the cable cautioned.

Going by the cable, U.S. officials also assisted the Pakistani investigators to prepare the prosecution case.

“Embassy Legatt [Legal Attache] continues to meet with the FIA investigative team on the technical aspects of the Mumbai investigation and prosecution. Currently Legatt is assisting FIA to prepare evidentiary materials for the court trial and the filing of a formal charge sheet,” the cable said.

The cable emphasised that in order to successfully prosecute the five men in judicial custody — LeT operations commander Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Hammad Ameen Sadiq, Mazhar Iqbal (aka al Qama), Abdul Wajid (aka Zarrar Shah), and Shahid Jamil Riaz — “the GOP [Government of Pakistan] still needs significant evidence sharing from both the U.S. and India. Additionally, U.S. legal expertise will be important in helping to frame third-country evidence in the most effective form for convictions.”

Under the sub-heading “Significant Hurdles,” the cable said acquiring some of the information that Pakistan needed for a successful prosecution would require “high-level intervention” from the relevant governments.

“The two pink boxes found in Pakistan and India are a strong link that proves the conspiracy behind the attacks originated in Pakistan. The GOP has passed its pink box to the FBI. The FBI still requires samples from the foam and glue that make up the box found in India. The GOI has not been forthcoming with this evidence.”

India did give the green light for sharing one piece of information. On April 27, according to the cable, the Embassy Legatt shared FBI information about a Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) subgroup believed to be responsible for the Mumbai attack.

“The information provided biographic leads on LeT members for the FIA to pursue. According to the information, an LeT subgroup, headed by Saifullah Muzzamil, and under the direction of LeT operation commander Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is suspected of planning, training, and execution of the Mumbai attacks. The information provided includes a list of suspected ‘Muzzamil' group members. Saifullah Muzzamil, the group leader, is responsible for LeT operations in four districts of Kashmir and is also allowed to conduct independent attacks in other parts of India. The ‘Muzzamil' group was established in late 2001, or early 2002, after Muzzamil's return from fighting in Kashmir.”

It is not known what, if any, action Pakistan took on the basis of this information.

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)

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