Pakistani security forces overran a militant camp on the outskirts of Kashmir's main city and seized an alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, two officials said yesterday.
Backed by a helicopter, the troops grabbed Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and at least 11 other people in the raid on Sunday on the riverbank camp run by the banned group Laskhar-e-Taiba (LET) in Pakistan's part of Kashmir, the officials said. There was a brief gunfight in the camp near Muzaffarabad before the militants were subdued, the officials said.
The officials — one from the intelligence agencies and one from a government agency — spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Indian officials say the sole Mumbai attacker captured alive has told them that Lakhvi recruited him for the mission and that Lakhvi and another militant, Yusuf Muzammil, planned the operation, which left 171 people dead in India's commercial capital.
The capture of Lakhvi was likely to please India as well as US officials, who allege he also directed LET operations in Chechnya, Bosnia and Southeast Asia, training members to carry out suicide bombings and attack populated areas. In 2004, he allegedly sent operatives and funds to attack US forces in Iraq.
It was not immediately clear what Pakistan intended to do with Lakhvi.
Pakistan and India do not have an extradition treaty. Last week, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari indicated anyone arrested in Pakistan in connection with the attacks would be tried in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, armed militants yesterday launched a second raid in as many days on NATO depots in Pakistan, torching nearly 100 more vehicles destined for the alliance's forces in Afghanistan, police said.
The latest attack on a container terminal near the northwest city of Peshawar came a day after Taliban militants launched the biggest such raid to date, destroying nearly 200 vehicles in the area.
This time, the attackers set nearly 100 vehicles alight, including jeeps and 20 supply trucks after dousing them with gasoline, police said.
Firefighters called to the scene managed to save another 40.
“It was almost the same type of attack as the one conducted by 200 armed militants” the previous night, police official Anwar Zeb said.
“The militants fled from the scene when police arrived,” he said.
A security guard confirmed that approximately 200 armed men had attacked the terminal in the early hours yesterday before fleeing.
Such attacks occur frequently in Pakistan, but they have become bigger and more sophisticated in recent months.
A police investigator said yesterday the militants traveled to Peshawar from the lawless tribal region of Khyber, which borders Afghanistan, and were well organized.
“They are well-armed with rocket launchers, hand grenades and other automatic weapons,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“The police are ill-equipped and the militants outnumber them. In both incidents police had to step aside because the militants came in large numbers and they did not want to risk their lives,” he added.
Another senior officer said guards were not trained to deal with the sophisticated raids being mounted by the insurgents.