Pakistani forces arrested at least 15 members of an Islamic charity linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group India suspects was behind the Mumbai attacks, including a senior leader.
AFP - Pakistan arrested a senior leader of the group widely suspected of being behind the Mumbai attacks, responding to intense US pressure to crack down on militants, an official said Monday.
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi -- who according to Indian media reports was named by the lone surviving gunman as a key planner of the attacks -- was detained with 14 other people during a raid on a camp in the disputed region of Kashmir.
The arrests late on Sunday came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there was evidence that Pakistan had been used by "non-state actors" to mount the deadly assaults on India's financial capital.
The 15 men arrested in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir were at a camp run by a charity closely linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba -- the group at the centre of investigations into the Mumbai siege, an intelligence official said.
"Security forces raided a relief camp set up by Jamaat-ud-Dawa," he said.
The raid was to gather information "in the wake of allegations by India that LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) was using Pakistani territory for training," he added.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa is run by Hafiz Saeed, who founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1989. He reportedly abandoned LeT when it was outlawed in Pakistan after India alleged it was behind a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi.
Lashkar-e-Taiba ("Army of the Pious") was established to fight Indian rule in Kashmir and has past links to both Pakistani intelligence services and Al-Qaeda.
Saeed on Monday condemned the arrests, saying the Pakistan government had shown "weakness by targeting Kashmiri organisations."
"India wants to crush the independence movement of Kashmir using the Mumbai attacks as a pretext," he said in a statement.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa is often seen as the political wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is on the US watch-list of terrorist organisations and is banned in Britain and several other Western countries.
The Mumbai assaults left 172 people dead, including nine gunmen, and has badly soured ties between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain.
India says all 10 gunmen involved in the assault came from Pakistan, and has handed Islamabad a list of 20 terror suspects, with demands for their arrest and extradition.
Pakistani police arrested the 15 suspects near the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, where Laskhar is active.
On Sunday, Rice -- who visited both India and Pakistan in the wake of the attacks -- said Islamabad must act quickly to help India prevent follow-on assaults.
"I do think that Pakistan has a responsibility to act," she said in a television interview.
But she and Pakistan's foreign ministry denied media reports that Islamabad agreed to a 48-hour timetable set by the United States and India to take action against Pakistanis accused of involvement in the attacks.
Meanwhile, US counter-terrorism and military officials are reassessing their view of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and believe it to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognised, The New York Times reported Monday.
Citing unnamed US intelligence officials, the daily said Lashkar had gained strength in recent years with the help of Pakistan’s main spy service, which has allowed the group to train and raise money.
But US officials said there was no hard evidence linking Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Mumbai attacks, the report said.
Date created : 2008-12-08