Two people arrested over links with India bombings

Two people have been arrested in the Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) for allegedly giving phone cards to the terrorists who carried out the deadly Mumbai attacks. Police confirm one of them is from the disputed region of Kashmir.


AFP - Indian police on Saturday questioned two men suspected of helping the militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks, amid reports of a home-grown terror link and fresh security jitters.

Pakistan meanwhile said it was awaiting "concrete proof" that a group based there carried out the November 26-29 attacks on India's financial capital which killed 163 civilians and security personnel.

The first arrests in connection with the deadly strike were made in the eastern city of Kolkata late Friday, senior police official Javed Shamim told reporters there.

Two men -- identified as Tousif Rahaman and Sheikh Muktar -- were held "for allegedly providing SIM cards to the terrorists in the Mumbai attacks," he said.

"Tousif, who was living in the central part of the city, bought about 40 SIM cards from the city, two of which are believed to have been given to the terrorists," he added.

He said Muktar was from revolt-hit Indian Kashmir, where Islamic militants have been waging a nearly two-decade battle against New Delhi's rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

One militant captured during the 60-hour orgy of violence that rocked Mumbai is already in custody. Nine others were killed during the siege.

India has pointed the finger at Pakistan, accusing it of harbouring Islamists who trained and equipped the 10 militants, straining ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours and threatening a slow-moving peace process.

Suspicion has fallen on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which has fought Indian control of divided Kashmir and was blamed for a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament which brought the two countries to the brink of war.

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.

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters in Istanbul on Friday, where he met Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai for talks on counter-extremism, that Islamabad was conducting its own probe into the attacks.

Zardari said his country, too, was a victim of extremism -- twin bomb attacks in restive northwest Pakistan killed more than 30 people on Friday.

Media reports here Saturday alleged that a suspected LeT operative arrested in northern Uttar Pradesh state in February had carried out reconnaissance missions to Mumbai, including at the city's main railway station.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was one of a number of locations raked by automatic gunfire and grenade blasts during the attacks.

Other reports said the Indian national was found with hand-drawn maps of key Mumbai landmarks.

In Vienna, officials said they would probe reports that militants used an Austrian mobile phone number during the siege.

High security meanwhile remained in place at India's major airports after warnings of aircraft hijackings, while police were on alert for the anniversary of the controversial razing of a mosque in the north of the country.

Police said more officers were on streets, at railway stations and government buildings 16 years to the day since Hindu activists demolished the Babri mosque at Ayodhya, claiming it was built on the site of a temple.

Their actions ignited widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims, including in Mumbai. Some 2,000 people were killed.

Senior Mumbai police chief K.L. Prasad told AFP extra officers were also out in force as followers of social activist Babasaheb Ambedkar flocked to the city to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

"Everywhere you go you will find a policeman in uniform but we have also increased the numbers of plain clothes officers," Prasad said.

Ambedkar, a Buddhist from the Dalit or "untouchable" class, was the chief architect of the Indian constitution and is recognised as a social reformer. But his followers have clashed with Hindu nationalists in recent years.

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