India demands Pakistan hand over fugitives

India has demanded that Pakistan hand over 20 "most wanted" men as tensions mount between the two nuclear countries in the wake of the deadly Mumbai attacks. Pakistani officials say they are "framing a response" to the demand.

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REUTERS - Pakistan will "frame a response" to an Indian demand that it hand over 20 of India's most wanted men, a Pakistani government minister said on Tuesday.


The demand was contained in a protest note handed to Pakistan's ambassador in New Delhi on Monday, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters, as tension between the nuclear-armed rivals mounted after the Mumbai attacks.


"We have to look at it formally once we get it and we will frame a response," Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters in Islamabad.


India has blamed Islamist militants based in Pakistan for last week's attacks in India's financial capital that killed 183 people.


Pakistan has condemned the assault, denied any involvement by state agencies and vowed to work with India in its investigation. On Monday, it rejected what it called unsubstantiated allegations of complicity.


Indian media reported the men on the list included Dawood Ibrahim, a Mumbai underworld don, and Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Muslim cleric freed from jail in India in exchange for passengers on a hijacked plane.


The demand for the hand over of about 20 fugitives was originally made in the wake of a December 2001 attack on India's parliament that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Pakistan said at the time it wanted to see evidence.

Then Pakistani president and army chief Pervez Musharraf said he would never extradite Pakistani citizens to India but he did not rule out sending back Indian nationals.


The 2001 attack on India's parliament nearly set off the fourth war between the two countries since Pakistan was carved from India in 1947 at the time of independence from Britain.


Pakistan has warned that if tension with India escalates, it would have to move troops from its Afghan border -- where it is battling al Qaeda and Taliban fighters responsible for violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan -- to the Indian border.


That would be a serious blow to U.S-led efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will visit India on Wednesday, has played down the threat of conflict.


Rice is due to visit Pakistan after India, Pakistan's the News newspaper reported.


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