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India admits security lapses ahead of terror strikes

Video by Sébastien DAGUERRESSAR

Latest update : 2008-12-05

India's new home minister said Friday that the Mumbai attacks had revealed security lapses. According to media reports, the US warned in October that the city would be targeted by attackers coming from the sea.

AFP - India's new interior minister admitted Friday to intelligence and security lapses ahead of last week's Mumbai attacks as Islamabad vowed to take "strong action" if any Pakistanis were involved.
  
"Ultimately there have been some lapses," Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a news conference.
  
"These are being looked into and I will do my utmost... to overcome the causes of these lapses and try to improve the effectiveness of the security system," he said.
  
Chidambaram refused to divulge details of the probe into the attacks that left 172 people dead, including 26 foreigners.
  
"All work is under way. A lot of evidence has been gathered. Many aspects are being checked... and when the full picture is drawn up I expect to be able to make a statement in parliament," he told reporters in Mumbai.
  
CNN and other US networks reported that the United States had warned India in October that hotels and business centres in Mumbai would be targeted by attackers coming from the sea.
  
One US intelligence official even named the Taj Mahal hotel, one of 10 sites hit in the 60-hour siege by gunmen, as a specific target, ABC television said.
  
India says that the 10 gunmen involved in the assault all came from Pakistan.
  
Several Indian newspapers on Friday cited unidentified intelligence sources as saying that Pakistan's powerful spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), was involved in training the gunmen.
  
The Indian Express said intercepts of conversations between the gunmen and their handlers showed the use of communication pathways often used by the ISI.
  
"We are 100 percent convinced that the ISI is involved," the India Abroad News Service quoted a highly placed intelligence source as saying.
  
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Islamabad Thursday in an effort to defuse tension in the region after visiting New Delhi the previous day.
  
Rice said it was crucial for the Pakistani government to provide full and transparent cooperation with the Indian investigations.
  
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he was determined that Pakistan would not be used to orchestrate attacks or shelter terrorists.
  
"The government will not only assist in investigation but also take strong action against any Pakistani elements found involved in the attack," Zardari said in an official statement issued after he met Rice.
  
New Delhi's international airport was locked down for about 40 minutes overnight Thursday after security guards heard what they thought were gunshots, but the incident was finally dismissed as a false alarm.
  
"There were no eyewitnesses to any gunshots and no rounds were recovered," said Udayan Bannerjee, head of the paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) which is responsible for airport security.
  
Security was tightened across India after the Mumbai attacks, and the alert level at several airports was raised even higher Thursday after Defence Minister A.K. Antony warned of possible "terror strikes from the air."
  
Suspicion for the Mumbai bloodshed has fallen on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group which has fought Indian control of divided Kashmir.
  
Lashkar was blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, which pushed the two nations to the brink of war.
  
Pakistan has been a key US ally since the September 11 attacks seven years ago, but many critics openly question whether elements in the Pakistan military and intelligence services support Islamist militants.
  
Rice said she had found the Pakistani leadership "very focused and committed" to action.
  
"Everybody wants to prevent further attacks," she told reporters after talks with Zardari, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and senior army officials.
  
The United States is concerned about any military stand-off with India that might see Pakistan move troops from its border with Afghanistan -- a crucial area where Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters have been gaining ground.
  

Date created : 2008-12-05

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