Mumbai Investigation Focuses on Local Links

Daily News Article   —   Posted on December 2, 2008

(by Yaroslav Trofimov, Peter Wonacott, Matthew Rosenberg and Eric Bellman, WallStreetJournal.com) MUMBAI – Indian officials investigating last week’s terror attacks on Mumbai say all 10 gunmen they killed or captured appeared to be Pakistanis, and are focusing on whether those attackers had local co-conspirators in the city they targeted.

“They had good knowledge of the place,” Mumbai Police joint commissioner for crime, Rakesh Maria, said in an interview, adding that the militants “were so well-aware of the general layout” of their targets. “We are looking at who helped them gain this knowledge,” he said.

Investigators are probing whether the information came by way of local help, or whether a separate team of militants carried out a reconnaissance mission from abroad to the financial center on India’s west coast to scope out targets and prepare the attacks.

The examination of possible insider help is significant, even as authorities also collect indications of foreign roots to the plot. Indian officials have increasingly focused on groups within Pakistan as being responsible, and officials demanded Monday that Islamabad hand over two key terror suspects — warning that relations between the nuclear-armed rivals would suffer if swift action isn’t taken.

Diplomats and political analysts say the demands suggest that India is using the international outrage over the carnage in Mumbai to pressure Pakistan into a broader crackdown against Islamist militant groups believed to be targeting India.

The country has suffered more than a dozen terror bombings in the past three years, from domestic and foreign sources. Early Tuesday, a bomb exploded in a passenger train in the northeastern state of Assam, where violent separatists are active. An official told Associated Press that at least two people were killed and 30 injured.

The Bush administration is pushing for Pakistan’s cooperation in the investigation of last week’s attacks, hoping to avoid a repeat of tensions that nearly set off a war between Pakistan and India in 2002.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling to New Delhi on Wednesday. “What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” Ms. Rice told reporters in London.

The terrorists killed at least 172 people, holding off security forces for three days of pitched battles at two luxury hotels and a Jewish center that ended Saturday. The one terrorist in police custody, identified by Commissioner Maria as 21-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Ameer Kasab, told investigators he and fellow gunmen were members of Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. He also said he had never been to Mumbai before, the commissioner said.

The terrorists tried to give an impression of being a homegrown Indian Muslim radical movement rather than a group of Pakistani infiltrators. A previously unheard-of movement, Deccan Mujahideen, claimed responsibility for the attacks, and, according to Commissioner Maria, the gunmen carried fake student cards from several Indian universities — and no other identity documents.

There have been numerous cases of Indian Muslim involvement in terrorism. After a series of bombings in 1993 — the deadliest terror attacks in Mumbai — India named as the main culprit the local Muslim organized-crime kingpin, Dawood Ibrahim, who is believed to now be in Karachi, Pakistan, where he is said to run businesses and own property.

On Monday, India demanded that Pakistan turn over Mr. Ibrahim and another top fugitive, cleric Maulana Masood Azhar. The leader of the banned Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, Mr. Azhar was once jailed in India. He was freed in 1999 as part of a deal that ended the hostage standoff over an Indian plane hijacked to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Neither man has been directly implicated in last week’s attacks.

Indian officials told Pakistan’s senior envoy to New Delhi of the demands after summoning him to the foreign ministry, an official familiar with the meeting said. “He was informed that the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai was carried out by elements from Pakistan,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement after the meeting. India “expects that strong action would be taken against those elements, whosoever they may be, responsible for this outrage.”

The U.S. fears tough talk from New Delhi could put Pakistan’s 10-month-old civilian government, its first in almost a decade, on the defensive, a situation that could easily spiral out of control. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they won independence from Britain in 1947.

Nothing among the Mumbai terrorists’ possessions pointed to a direct link with Pakistan: In addition to guns, bullets and Chinese-made grenades, the militants carried bundles of Indian rupees, packets of raisins and nuts to keep their energy high, and roaming cellphones with numbers that were neither Indian nor Pakistani, Mumbai’s Commissioner Maria said.

The Pakistani connection would have been almost impossible to prove if not for the capture of Mr. Kasab, at a roadblock on Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach after a long shooting spree Wednesday night. Mr. Kasab, who investigators say is cooperating, is providing leads for the additional main directions of inquiry, such as how bombs got onto two Mumbai taxis that exploded that night, and if fresh attacks may be planned against the city, Commissioner Maria said.

Most of what Mr. Kasab has said so far has proven accurate, the commissioner said in the interview. After his capture, the young man had become resigned to helping the Indian police, Commissioner Maria said: “He knows the game is up for him.” The key piece of evidence he provided is information about the hijacked fishing vessel that ferried terrorists from near Pakistan to waters off Mumbai.

On the fishing trawler, investigators discovered — just as Mr. Kasab said they would — the slain lead crewman who had been thrown into the engine room, a satellite phone, and a global positioning device for navigating. Another GPS unit recovered in Mumbai suggested that the terrorists planned to return to the vessel if they survived the attacks, Commissioner Maria said.

Mr. Kasab also provided the names of his comrades-in-arms, but these were noms-de-guerre rather than genuine identities, Commissioner Maria said. Mr. Kasab was part of the pair that entered Mumbai’s main railway station to start a murderous rampage through the city.

On Monday, R.R. Patil, who was in charge of security in Maharashtra state where Mumbai is located, resigned over security failures, following the lead of federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil, India’s top internal security official, who resigned on Sunday. Mr. Patil’s boss, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, also offered to quit, an offer India’s Congress party was considering. “If the responsibility of the attacks is on the chief minister, then I will go,” Mr. Deshmukh told reporters.

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com, Peter Wonacott at peter.wonacott@wsj.com, Matthew Rosenberg at matthew.rosenberg@wsj.com and Eric Bellman at eric.bellman@wsj.com.

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Questions

1. Name the capitals of Pakistan and India.

2. Why do Indian investigators believe the Mumbai terrorists had help from either locals or a separate team who prepared for the attacks from outside India?

3. What has the Indian government demanded that Pakistan do to assist them in their investigation? Be specific.

4. Why do Indian investigators believe that all 10 of the terrorists are Pakistani even though nothing found among their possessions pointed to a direct link with Pakistan?

5. Why do you think the terrorists tried to give an impression of belonging to an Indian Muslim radical movement rather than a group of Pakistani infiltrators?

6. What concern does the U.S. have about India’s demands and threats to Pakistan?


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Background

On the India-Pakistan conflict (from the CIA World FactBook):

  • The separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with West and East sections) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved, and India and Pakistan fought two wars – in 1947-48 and 1965 – over the disputed Kashmir territory.
  • A third war between these countries in 1971 – in which India capitalized on Islamabad’s marginalization of Bengalis in Pakistani politics – resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh.
  • In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998.
  • The dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing, but discussions and confidence-building measures have led to decreased tensions since 2002.
  • Mounting public dissatisfaction with Pakistani President Musharraf, coupled with the assassination of the prominent and popular political leader, Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, and Musharraf’s resignation in August 2008, led to the September presidential election of Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s widower.
  • Pakistani government and military leaders are struggling to control Islamist militants, many of whom are located in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan.
  • The Pakistani government is also faced with a deteriorating economy as foreign exchange reserves decline, the currency depreciates, and the current account deficit widens.

Resources

Read about Indian-Pakistani conflict at countrywatch.com.

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan.

For background information on India or Pakistan, go to the CIA World FactBook.

Read a previous article describing the terrorist attacks at wsj.com.