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Pakistani Militants At Center Of Probe

After a wave of coordinated terrorist attacks turned parts of Mumbai's financial district into a combat zone, officials in New Delhi, India, and Islamabad, Pakistan, grapple with the political and diplomatic fallout of India's deadliest terror attack in 15 years.

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Although privately angered by the implication of Singh's public remarks that Pakistan may have been involved, Gillani's government has emphasized that Pakistan, too, has been victimized by terrorists and that the two countries should work together against the threat.

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Tensions between India and Pakistan have remained raw since July, when a suicide bomber targeted the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing 58 people, including the Indian defense attache to Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence officials later said there was evidence that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency had sponsored the attack. Pakistan's government denied involvement.

Gregory, the British analyst, said Pakistan had a clear motive for the embassy bombing because it has grown alarmed at rising Indian influence in Afghanistan. But he said he doubted that Pakistan's military or intelligence services would have foreseen any benefit from what has transpired in Mumbai. "I cannot see, at this point, any conceivable advantage for the Pakistani state in this attack," he said.

U.S., British and Indian counterterrorism officials and analysts said that Lashkar-i-Taiba, an Islamist network based in Pakistan, remained a primary suspect in the Mumbai disaster. They cautioned, however, that any number of other groups, including Muslim radicals from India, could have played a role.

Shortly after the attacks began, an organization calling itself the Deccan Mujaheddin asserted responsibility in e-mails to Indian media. But authorities said they had never heard of the group and questioned whether it was a front for others.

Lashkar-i-Taiba, which means Army of the Pious, was founded as a guerrilla group to fight the Indian army in Kashmir and received support from Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies as a proxy force. Under pressure from the United States, the Pakistani government banned the group after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but analysts said it continues to enjoy the backing of some Pakistani politicians and security officials. It also has operated joint training camps in Pakistan with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The tactics involved in the Mumbai attacks have been embraced before by Lashkar-i-Taiba. The group has routinely trained gunmen -- called "fedayeen," or fighters who volunteer to sacrifice themselves in battle -- to carry out operations in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.

Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington who formerly served at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, said if India can prove Lashkar-i-Taiba was culpable, "then the stress on the relationship becomes really acute."

Lashkar was one of the groups that Pakistani intelligence "favored for all its dirty work in Kashmir and elsewhere," Tellis said. "The whole question of Pakistan's involvement itself is difficult because there are so many 'Pakistans.' . . . There is the intelligence agency, the army, the civilian government. I cannot imagine that the civilian government would have anything to do with an operation like this."

Indian officials said that at least some of the gunmen arrived in Mumbai by boat and that the group included Pakistani nationals, although they did not offer firm evidence to back up that assertion.

Other Indian officials said Friday that two of the gunmen were British citizens of Pakistani descent. British officials said they were investigating the report but had been unable to corroborate it. Meanwhile, a team of counterterrorism officials from Scotland Yard left for India to assist in the investigation.

The FBI has also sent a team of about half a dozen investigators to India, although government sources said it was not clear the extent to which the Indians would allow the U.S. agents to participate. The FBI maintains a permanent office at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and the agents will operate as part of the existing "country team."

DeYoung reported from Washington.


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