India picked up intelligence in recent months that terrorists were plotting attacks against Mumbai targets, an official said yesterday, as the government demanded that Islamabad hand over suspected terrorists believed to be living in Pakistan.
A list of about 20 people — including India’s most-wanted man — was submitted to Pakistan’s high commissioner to India on Monday night, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
India has already demanded Pakistan take “strong action” against those responsible for the attacks.
The diplomatic wrangling comes as the government faces widespread accusations of security and intelligence failures after suspected Muslim militants carried out a three-day attack across Mumbai, killing 172 people and wounding 239.
Indian officials continued to interrogate the surviving attacker, who reportedly told police that he and the other nine gunmen had trained for months in camps in Pakistan operated by the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
India’s foreign intelligence agency had received information as recently as September that terrorits based in Pakistan were plotting attacks against Mumbai targets, a government intelligence official familiar with the matter said.
The information was relayed to domestic security authorities, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the details. But it’s unclear what, if anything, the government did with the intelligence after that.
The famous Taj Mahal hotel, scene of much of the bloodshed, had tightened its security with metal detectors and other measures in the weeks before the attacks, after being warned of a possible threat.
But the security precautions “could not have stopped what took place,” Ratan Tata, chairman of the company that owns the hotel, told CNN. “They [the gunmen] didn’t come through that entrance … They came from somewhere in the back.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met yesterday with top security aides to review any government lapses.
Among the prisoners sought by India is Dawood Ibrahim — a powerful gangster, the alleged mastermind of 1993 Mumbai bombings, and India’s most-wanted man — and Masood Azhar, who was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for the release of hostages aboard an Indian Airlines aircraft hijacked on Christmas Day 1999.
Pakistan would consider India’s request and respond after receiving the list, Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.