- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BOMBAY | India demanded Monday that Pakistan take “strong action” against those behind the deadly Bombay attacks, and Washington pressured Islamabad to cooperate with the investigation.

The only known surviving attacker told police that his group trained for months in camps operated by a banned Pakistani militant group, learning close-combat techniques, explosives training and other tactics for its three-day siege.

Teams from the FBI and Britain’s Scotland Yard met with top Indian police as they prepared to help collect evidence, a police official said. Indian authorities blamed the attacks on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Soldiers removed the remaining bodies from the shattered Taj Mahal hotel, where the standoff finally ended Saturday morning, with at least 172 people dead and 239 wounded. The army had already cleared other siege sites, including the five-star Oberoi hotel and the Bombay headquarters of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group.

Among the 19 foreigners killed were six Americans.

India’s financial hub returned to normal Monday to some degree, with parents dropping their children off at school and shopkeepers opening for the first time since the attacks.

The 60-hour attack, apparently carried out by 10 gunmen, exposed glaring weakness in India’s security forces and police. In the past two days, the country’s top law enforcement official has resigned and two top state officials have offered to quit amid growing criticism that the attackers appeared better trained, better coordinated and better armed than the police.

While the cross-border rhetoric between Pakistan and India has increased since the attacks, both countries carefully refrained from making statements that could quickly lead to a buildup of troops along their heavily militarized frontier.

In India, Pakistan’s ambassador to the country met with Foreign Ministry officials and was told that “elements from Pakistan” had carried out the attacks, ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said. His phrasing, though, carefully avoided blaming the Pakistani government.

The envoy was told that India “expects that strong action would be taken against those elements,” Mr. Prakash said.

India’s demands were reinforced by the United States as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will visit India later this week, said the perpetrators of attacks “must be brought to justice.”

Pakistan must “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” she said during a visit in London on Monday. “This is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation, and that’s what we expect.”

Pakistan has repeatedly insisted it was not behind the attacks. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Monday that the gunmen were “non-state actors” and warned against letting their actions lead to greater regional enmity.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, who have been fighting Pakistani security forces, announced support to the Islamabad government in the crisis with India.

Maulvi Omar, spokesman of the militant group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, told the Pakistani television channel Khyber News that militants will fight to defend the national frontiers in case of any foreign attack.

“We will set aside our internal issues with the government and will fight alongside the military if India attacks Pakistan,” he said. “When we feel there is a threat to Pakistan, we will stop attacks on Pakistani security forces.”

The sole surviving Bombay attacker, Ajmal Qasab, told police that his group trained over about six months in camps operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan, learning close-combat techniques, hostage-taking, handling of explosives, satellite navigation and high-seas survival skills, according to two Indian security officials familiar with the investigation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the details.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned in Pakistan under pressure from the U.S. in 2002, a year after Washington and Britain listed it as a terrorist group. It is since believed to have emerged under another name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, although that group has denied links to the Bombay attack.

Qasab told investigators the militants hijacked an Indian vessel and killed three crew members, keeping the captain alive long enough to guide them into Bombay, the two security officials said.

Washington Times correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this article.

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