Thu, Dec 04, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Rice in India following attacks

MEETINGS The top US diplomat was to meet the Indian prime minister and other officials. Washington has pointed the finger at Pakistan-based groups


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in New Delhi yesterday in Washington’s effort to ease tensions in the region after a three-day terrorist attack that left 171 people dead in Mumbai.

Rice, the US’ top diplomat, was to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top officials. US officials have pointed the finger at Pakistan-based groups in the attacks and have pressured Islamabad to cooperate in the investigation.

As evidence of the militants’ links to Pakistan mounted, Mumbai police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said on Tuesday that former Pakistani army officers trained the group — some for up to 18 months — and that they set out by boat from the Pakistani port of Karachi.

He denied reports that the men had been planning to escape from Mumbai after their rampage.

“It appears that it was a suicide attack,” Ghafoor said, providing no other details about when the gunmen left Karachi, or when they hijacked the trawler.

The revelations came as a senior US official said India had received a warning from the US that militants were plotting a waterborne assault on Mumbai.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of intelligence information, would not elaborate on the timing or details of the US warning.

The Indian government is already facing intense public accusations of security and intelligence failures after suspected Muslim militants carried out the 60-hour siege across Mumbai last week.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said his country gave a list of about 20 people — including India’s most-wanted man — to Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi on Monday.

India stepped up the pressure on its neighbor after interrogating the only surviving attacker, who 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.

On Tuesday, US officials also pointed the finger at Pakistani-based groups, although they did not specifically mention Lashkar by name.

US National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said the same group that carried out last week’s attack was believed to be behind the Mumbai train bombings that killed more than 200 two years ago.

While McConell did not identify the group by name, the Indian government has attributed the 2006 attack to Lashkar and the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Of greater concern for India was the apparent failure to act on multiple warnings ahead of the Mumbai attacks, which Indian navy chief Sureesh Mehta called “a systemic failure.”

India’s foreign intelligence agency also had warnings as recently as September that terrorists based in Pakistan were plotting attacks on Mumbai, according to a government intelligence official familiar with the matter.

The information, intercepted from telephone conversations apparently coming out of Pakistan indicated that hotels might be targeted, but did not specify which ones, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The information was relayed to domestic security authorities, but it was unclear whether the government acted on the intelligence.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, scene of much of the bloodshed, had tightened security with metal detectors and other measures in the weeks before the attacks, after being warned of a possible threat.

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