Sunday, November 30, 2008

Indians claim terrorists took orders from Pakistan

From the Times Online:

The Indian authorities yesterday claimed to have proof that the Mumbai terrorists were receiving instructions from Pakistan and discussing tactics with their handlers during the three days of attacks in which they killed at least 195 people.

The claims threaten further to embitter relations between the two nuclear powers. Tensions have been high since confirmation that the only captured gunman was a 21-year-old Pakistani.

It has also emerged that India had been warned that terrorists were planning an attack in Mumbai.

Up to 22 foreigners were among those killed in raids by 10-15 terrorists on sites across the city, including hotels, the main railway station, a Jewish community centre and two hospitals. The last of the gunmen was killed by Indian commandos yesterday morning, ending the siege at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. One hotel worker was found alive and 22 bodies were removed. As many as 80 bodies may still be in the building.

One Briton has been confirmed dead and last night the Foreign Office refused to say whether more UK citizens could be among the victims in the wreckage of the hotel.

RR Patil, the deputy chief minister of Mumbai’s state government, said there was “proof” that the terrorists were on the phone to someone in Pakistan during the attack.

“All phone calls made by them were tapped. They were being instructed from outside regarding their movement inside the hotel - whether to go upstairs or come down or make a move left or right,” he said.

Patil also claimed that the terrorists had intended to kill at least 5,000 people, making for a greater atrocity than 9/11.

The Pakistan government denied any involvement in the attacks but backtracked on a decision to send the chief of its spy agency to India to help the investigation. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, promised to take the “swiftest of action” if there was evidence the terrorists came from his country.

Yesterday the Indian authorities firmly denied reports that up to seven of the attackers were British. Intelligence sources in the UK said they were unaware of any evidence that British nationals were involved.

Police chiefs in Mumbai confirmed they had been aware as long ago as January that the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning a terrorist spectacular.

The information came from Fahim Ansari, a captured operative for the group, who revealed under interrogation that he had carried out reconnaissance visits to the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

CCTV footage revealed that Ansari had visited the Oberoi. Both hotels said they had received warnings as recently as August about an attack and had stepped up security.

The Indian authorities intercepted a telephone call made from the Arabian Sea less than two weeks ago in which a terrorist suspect was heard saying “we’re coming to Mumbai”.

The Indian coastguard was alerted but Ajmal Aamer Kasav, the surviving gunman, is understood to have told his interrogators the terrorists had switched ships to evade detection. Kasav, who speaks fluent English, told investigators he and his fellow terrorists had trained at a camp at the Mangla dam between Pakistani Punjab and Pakistan-held Kashmir.

The group had travelled in pairs to Karachi where they boarded a boat. They had been told not to talk to each other on the journey.
Comment: all this is bad, bad, bad. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Indians SNAFUed all the warnings about what would happen. Even worse, the Pakistani connection is becoming even more crucial. For example, if it is true that the terrorists were getting instructions by phone during the attacks, then ISI must have been fully aware of this, if not through their own capabilities, then at least via the USA. As for the decision not to send Pasha to India, here is probably what happened: President Zardari, probably horrified by the news, decided to sent Pasha as a sign of his full collaboration, only to be over-ruled by the real bosses in Pakistan: the ISI brass whose role in what happened raises all sorts of very scary questions. I wonder how much more restraint India can show towards Pakistan and I am afraid that India cannot just take one terrorist attack after the other (all with strong Pakistani connections) without some kind of retaliation.