- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | Pakistan on Thursday acknowledged that the Mumbai attacks were partly plotted on its soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects, including three purported ringleaders, in a sign it is heeding U.S. and Indian demands to punish those responsible for the deaths of more than 170 people.

“I want to assure the international community, I want to assure all those who have been victims of terrorism, that we mean business,” Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters, while holding up a copy of the findings that were later handed over to India.

India called the announcement a “positive development.”

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the arrests showed that “Pakistan is serious about doing what it can to deal with the people who may have perpetrated these attacks.”

New Delhi said the 10 gunmen - only one of whom was captured alive - were Pakistanis and that their handlers in Pakistan kept in touch with them by phone during the three-day assault on 10 sites including two five-star hotels and a Jewish center.

Mr. Malik said Pakistani investigators had determined three boats were used by the attackers to sail from southern Pakistan to India. He said other leads pointed to Europe and the United States, and Pakistan would ask the FBI for help.

Detectives traced an engine recovered from one of the boats to a shop in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi. Mr. Malik said the shopkeeper provided the phone number of the buyer, which led to a bank account in the name of Hammad Amin Sadiq.

Mr. Malik said authorities arrested Mr. Sadiq and obtained from him information that led them to two “hide-outs of the terrorists,” one in Karachi and one about a two-hour drive away. He described Mr. Sadiq as “the main operator.”

“Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan and … according to the available information, most of [the suspects] are in our custody,” he said.

One suspect, Javed Iqbal, had been “lured” back from Barcelona, where he had been living, and was now in Pakistani custody. While in Spain, Mr. Iqbal had arranged Internet telephone accounts used in the attacks and bills had been paid in Italy, Mr. Malik said.

He said the suspects also used a digital teleconferencing system whose service provider is based in Houston, while a satellite phone used by the attackers was issued in a “Middle Eastern country,” he said.

India has blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant group widely believed to be created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in the divided Kashmir region.

Pakistani officials have said they arrested two purported leaders of the group, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, who have been publicly accused by India of masterminding the attacks.

Mr. Malik said criminal cases had been registered against those four men and four other suspects - all Pakistani citizens - on charges of “abetting, conspiracy and facilitation” of a terrorist act.

Mr. Malik said Pakistan was sending 30 questions to India about the attacks, seeking the fingerprints of the 10 gunmen, the DNA of the lone survivor and details of intercepted phone conversations between the militants and their handlers.

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