One of the two Indian men arrested for illegally buying mobile phone cards used by the gunmen in the Mumbai attacks was a counterinsurgency police officer who may have been on an undercover mission.
Senior police officers in Indian Kashmir, which has been at the heart of tensions between India and Pakistan, demanded the release of the officer, Mukhtar Ahmed, saying on Saturday he was one of their own and had been involved in infiltrating Kashmiri militant groups.
The arrests, announced in Calcutta, were the first since the bloody siege ended. But what was touted as a rare success for India’s beleaguered law enforcement agencies, quickly turned sour as police in two Indian regions squared off against one another.
Indian authorities believe the banned Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has links to Kashmir, trained the gunmen and plotted the attacks that left 171 people dead after a three-day rampage through Mumbai that began Nov. 26.
The implications of Ahmed’s involvement — that Indian agents may have been in touch with the militants and perhaps supplied the SIM cards used in the attacks — added to the growing list of questions over India’s ill-trained security forces, which are widely blamed for not thwarting the attacks.
Earlier on Saturday, Calcutta police announced the arrests of Ahmed and Tauseef Rahman, who allegedly bought SIM cards by using fake documents, including identification cards of dead people. The cards allow users to switch their cellular service to phones other than their own.
Rahman, of West Bengal state, later sold them to Ahmed, said Rajeev Kumar a senior Calcutta police officer.
Both men were arrested on Friday and charged with fraud and criminal conspiracy, Kumar said, adding that police were still investigating how the 10 gunmen obtained the SIM cards.
But the announcement had police in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, fuming.
A senior officer said Calcutta police were told that Ahmed is “our man and it’s now up to them how to facilitate his release.”
He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. Other police officials in Kashmir supported his account.