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LeT ‘admits’ to role in attacks
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Pakistan’s investigation into the Mumbai terrorist attacks has revealed “substantive links” between the 10 terrorists and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to a US media report.

Citing a senior Pakistani security official, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site on Wednesday that at least one top Lashkar leader, captured in a raid in December in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, had confessed the group's involvement in the attack as India and the US have alleged.

Pakistani security officials identified Lashkar commander as Zarar Shah. “He is singing,” the official, who declined to be identified, said of Shah. The official said the confession was backed up by the US intercepts of a phone call between Shah and one of the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, one of the luxury hotels targeted by the terrorists.

The Journal reported a second source familiar with the investigation said Shah told Pakistani interrogators that he was one of the key planners of the operation, and that he spoke with the attackers during the attacks to give them advice and keep them focused.

This source said Shah had implicated other Lashkar members, and had “broadly confirmed the story told by the sole-captured gunman to Indian investigators - that the 10 assailants were trained in Pakistan's part of Kashmir and then had gone by boat from Karachi to Mumbai,” the Journal reported, adding, “Mr Shah said the attackers also spent at least a few weeks in Karachi, a crowded Arabian Sea port, training in urban combat to hone skills they would use in their assault.”

Shah was picked up along with fellow Lashkar commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi during the military camp raids in Kashmir.

“It is of the utmost importance to put Lashkar out of business,” Teresita Schaffer, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and now Director of the South Asia Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told The Tribune. “I expect that will be the US focus, and that the US will try hard to deliver a satisfactory Pakistani response.”

A spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, Farhatullah Babar, said on Tuesday that he wasn't aware of the emergence of any links between Lashkar and the Mumbai attackers. “The Interior Ministry has already stated that the government of Pakistan has not been furnished with any evidence,” he said.

Pakistan banned the Lashkar-e-Taiba under pressure from the US and India in 2002 but the group continued to flourish under different names.

The Lashkar-e- taiba has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US State Department. Led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, it is one of the three largest and best trained groups fighting in Kashmir against India.

According to the State Department, “Almost all Lashkar-e-Taiba members are Pakistanis from madarsas across Pakistan or Afghan veterans of the Afghan wars.”

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We will sternly deal with non-state actors: Zardari

Islamabad, December 31
President Asif Ali Zardari today assured his US counterpart George W Bush that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used by “non-state actors” for launching attacks on other countries.

The assurance was conveyed by Zardari when Bush telephoned him this evening, a brief statement issued by the Presidency said.

“President Asif Ali Zardari reiterated the position of the government of Pakistan that it will not allow its territory to be used by non-state actors for launching attacks on other countries”, the statement said. He addedd “anybody found involved in such attacks from the soil of Pakistan will be dealt with sternly”. — PTI

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