- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

JAMMU, India | India has arrested three suspected Islamic militants - including a Pakistani soldier - for purportedly planning a suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said Tuesday.

The arrests come amid rising tensions and increasing pressure from India on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups operating from its territory in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

The suspects are members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, one of more than a dozen groups that have been fighting since 1989 to oust India from Kashmir, Kuldeep Khoda, director-general of police in Indian Kashmir, told reporters.

The Himalayan region - the source of much of the tension between India and Pakistan - is divided between the two nations and claimed in its entirety by both.

Mr. Khoda said police do not yet know the intended target of the attack, but he said the three men “had received specialized training in suicide attacks and driving explosive-laden vehicles.”

The men were detained Sunday after checking into a hotel in Jammu, a predominantly Hindu city in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. They were waiting to receive arms and explosives when they were arrested, Mr. Khoda said.

One of the men, identified as Ghulam Farid, is a Pakistani soldier serving in the Azad Kashmir, or Free Kashmir, regiment, Mr. Khoda said and provided the man’s army service number.

A military official in Pakistan, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Mr. Farid was not an active soldier but deserted in June 2006.

If he is proven to be an active Pakistani soldier, it would be a blow for Pakistan, which denies funding and training the Kashmiri militant groups and says it only provides them with moral support.

Another Pakistan-based Kashmiri group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been blamed for the Mumbai attacks in which 164 people and nine of the 10 accused gunmen were killed.

On Monday, India gave Pakistan a letter reportedly written by Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman captured after the Mumbai rampage. Kasab wrote that all the gunmen involved in the Nov. 26 attack came from Pakistan, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.

In Islamabad, the head of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, said Tuesday that Pakistan had no record of Kasab.

Mr. Malik, speaking at a press conference with visiting Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, reiterated that Pakistan cannot fully investigate potential links back to the country without more evidence from India. Mr. Noble said India has not provided any information that would allow Interpol to help identify the individuals involved.

India has said it has provided enough evidence for the Pakistani government to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan has arrested several senior members of the banned group and has also moved against Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a charity that India and others say is a front for Lashkar. But India has criticized the moves as insufficient and has demanded greater action.

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