Pakistan warns India of troop redeployment

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan threatened to redeploy troops from the Afghan border to the plains facing India, as charges escalated that terrorists who attacked Bombay planned and trained on Pakistani soil.

Pakistan continued to deny the charges and President Bush sought to defuse tensions, pledging U.S. help in the investigation during a telephone call to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The president also dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to India. Miss Rice and Mr. Bush wanted an opportunity “to express the condolences of the American government directly to the Indian government and the Indian people,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told the Associated Press.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters after an emergency Cabinet meeting in Islamabad that Pakistani forces were prepared to defend the country at all costs.

“We do not have to be defensive and we are not defensive as Pakistan is not involved in this incident,” Mr. Qureshi said. “Our hands are clean. There is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Indian officials have avoided accusing the Pakistani government of complicity in the attack.

But for the first time Sunday, an Indian official openly accused the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba of last week’s 60-hour attack that killed at least 174 people. Six Americans, including a father and daughter from Virginia, were among the dead.

In Bombay, Joint Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said the only known surviving gunman, Ajmal Qasab, told police that he was trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistan, the Associated Press reported.

“Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind the terrorist acts in the city,” the commissioner said.

At least 10 terrorists armed with automatic rifles and grenades struck multiple sites, including two landmark hotels, a Jewish center and Bombay’s main train station, where dozens of policemen armed with sticks and 100-year-old rifles were helpless to intervene.

Asked about the commissioner’s claim, Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani said that just as with the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, terrorists come from different countries.

“I am glad that no one is accusing the government of Pakistan, the military of Pakistan or even Pakistan’s intelligence services with any credible evidence this time around,” Mr. Haqqani said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“The important thing to understand is that Pakistan has condemned this action. Pakistan is on the same side as India and the United States and the rest of the world in fighting terrorism,” Mr. Haqqani said.

Police continued to remove bodies from the colonial-era Taj Mahal on Bombay’s waterfront Sunday, a favorite of well-heeled tourists and India’s growing elite - the site where the siege ended a day earlier.

A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the carnage there and at least nine other sites. The previously unknown group used a name suggesting it was based in India.

For days, however, reports blaming the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba have dominated the Indian press.

The group, originally based in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, is purportedly a creation of Pakistani intelligence.

Under pressure from the United States and Britain, Pakistan banned the group in 2002.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was founded in Afghanistan in 1989, by Haifiz Mohammad Saeed, an academic who recruited fighters from the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which was then ending.

The name means “army of the pious.” Its initial goal was to challenge Indian rule in Kashmir, but U.S. officials say the group thought it was waging war against non-Muslim rule throughout South Asia.

It later established ties with al Qaeda, with which it shares the goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate throughout the region and beyond.

U.S. officials think it cooperates with al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border, where it provides aid and shelter to al Qaeda members.

Lashkar was blamed for at least two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2004, an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, an attack on a Hindu temple in India in 2002 and other attacks in India-controlled Kashmir.

In addition, it was blamed for a 2003 suicide bombing in Bombay that killed 52, and an October 2005 suicide attack in New Delhi during a festival, in which more than 60 people died. In 2006, the group was accused of a bombing attack in Bombay, in which 209 people died.

Its founder, Mr. Saeed, 62, now heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which claims to be a charity organization but is accused by some of being Lashkar-e-Taiba with a different name.

Commenting on the latest attack on Bombay, also known as Mumbai, Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari said Indian charges are undermining Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism.

“If Delhi increases pressure on Pakistan, Islamabad will have no choice but to move its troops from the tribal region to its eastern border with India,” Mr. Askari said.

Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 troops on its porous western border with Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

“Both the countries should heed the call of sanity by sitting at the negotiating table instead of confronting each other militarily,” Mr. Askari told The Washington Times.

Pakistan originally designated its intelligence chief to visit India and help with the investigation. However, it sent a lower-ranking official after an outcry from India.

In India on Sunday, anger was directed not only at Pakistan but also at the country’s own security preparations.

The home minister resigned from his post and officials at the ministry were not available for comment.

Police in Bombay were lightly armed, without two-way radios or bulletproof vests. The city of 18 million had no SWAT team. It took hours for commandos to arrive from New Delhi, a delay that gave the gang of at least 10 terrorists time to consolidate their positions.

Reports said it took security forces 10 hours to overpower just two gunmen inside the Jewish center.

Apart from the American victims, the dead included visitors from Germany, Canada, Israel, Britain, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia and Singapore.

“Out of this tragedy can come an opportunity to hold these extremists accountable and demonstrate the world’s shared commitment to combat terrorism,” Mr. Bush told the Indian prime minister, Mr. Singh, in Sunday’s telephone call.

Mr. Bush also said “he has directed the State and Defense Departments along with other federal agencies to devote the necessary resources and personnel to this situation,” according to a statement released by White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Miss Rice was scheduled to travel to Brussels for a NATO gathering. On Wednesday, after the NATO meeting, she will travel to New Delhi, according to her new itinerary, as reported by the AP.

• Sara A. Carter contributed to this report from Washington.

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