- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Pakistan has started to redeploy thousands of troops to the Indian border from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday, raising fears of new tensions in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for last month’s three-day siege on its financial capital, which killed at least 171 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, two Pakistani intelligence officials said elements of the army’s 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.

An Associated Press reporter in Dera Ismail Khan, a district that borders the South Waziristan tribal area, said he saw about 25 trucks loaded with soldiers and equipment heading away from the Afghan border Friday.

The military began the troop movement Thursday and plans to shift 20,000 soldiers, the two officials said, without providing a time frame.

Earlier Friday, a security official said all troop leaves had been canceled.

India and Pakistan have said they want to avoid military conflict, but India has not ruled out the use of force if Pakistan does not prosecute those responsible for the November attacks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Friday that Pakistan would not strike first.

“We will not take any action on our own,” Mr. Gilani told reporters.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee accused Pakistan of trying to divert attention from its struggle to rein in homegrown terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India accuses of masterminding the Mumbai attacks.

“They should concentrate on the real issue: how to fight against terrorists and how to fight against and bring to book the perpetrators of [the] Bombay [Mumbai] terrorist attack,” he said.

Pakistan has arrested several senior members of the group and cracked down on a charity linked to Lashkar. However, none of those arrested has appeared in court and India has demanded greater action.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met earlier Friday with the chiefs of the army, navy and air force to discuss “the prevailing security situation,” according to an official statement.

The White House said it was discussing the reported troop movements with U.S. embassies in the region.

“We hope that both sides will avoid taking steps that will unnecessarily raise tensions during these already tense times,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

News of the buildup came as Indian officials said militant activity in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest levels since an anti-India militant movement began in the disputed territory in 1989.

The number of militant attacks fell 35 percent from 2007 to 2008, reaching 709 this year from about 1,100 last year, Kuldeep Khoda, a senior police official, said.

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