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Pakistan Rejects India's Charges, Seeks Proof

By Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 30, 2008

MUMBAI, Nov. 29 -- Pakistan demanded late Saturday that India produce evidence to support allegations it was involved in the three-day assault on India's financial and cultural capital, a battle that came to a close earlier in the day.

Indian officials said they had killed or captured 10 gunmen responsible for the rampage through Mumbai, as authorities pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel. Mourners marched in tearful funeral processions for some of the nearly 200 people killed in the attacks, which also targeted another hotel, a Jewish center and several other sites. Six Americans were among the dead.

Indian intelligence officials said Saturday that the only surviving attacker was from Pakistan.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said his government was not involved. "If they have evidence, they should share it with us. Our hands are clean," he said at a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. "We have nothing to be ashamed of."

Pakistan warned that it would redeploy troops involved in the terrorism fight on its border with Afghanistan to its frontier with India in response to any Indian troop movements.

"Tension with India is mounting. The situation is very critical, and the next 48 hours are very crucial," a senior Pakistani official said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. He said Pakistan had put its air force and navy on high alert. "In case of any Indian aggression, Pakistan will respond to it in a matching way," he said.

Similar finger-pointing after an attack on the Indian Parliament brought the two governments to the brink of war in 2001.

In Washington, U.S. intelligence officials said the evidence continues to point to a connection to Kashmiri separatists, although the sources stressed that the investigation has barely gotten underway.

"We're in the very early innings," said a U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But now that the shooting is over, the Indians have a lot to work with." Key clues will probably come from the gunmen themselves, "both the living and the dead," he said.

Islamist fighters in Pakistan have sought for years to provoke a new war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the disputed province that both countries claimed after the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. Indian and Western intelligence officials have specifically cited Lashkar-i-Taiba, an Islamist network based in Pakistan that was founded to fight the Indian army in Kashmir.

On Friday, Pakistan reversed a decision to send its spy chief to aid India's investigation, saying it would send a lower-level official. But officials said they would help India identify and capture those behind the attacks.

"My heart bleeds for India," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told an Indian television channel. "As president of Pakistan, if any evidence points to anyone in my country," his government will take action, he said.

Nationalistic pride has surged across India even as officials struggled to deal with accusations of a delayed government response to the crisis and poor coordination, especially at a Jewish center in Mumbai where five people were killed, including a rabbi from New York and his wife.

At a meeting in New Delhi, officials said they would station special commando forces in cities to expedite crisis response, and they emphasized the need for better coordination between the forces and local police.

"Now we are thinking about how to reduce the delay and get into action and not lose the golden hour," M.L. Kumawat, special secretary of internal security, said at a news conference in New Delhi. "In the very near future, we will have such units at least in the big metropolitan cities. And in just a few hours, they will be able to mount an operation."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with security agencies Saturday and has called a meeting of all the political parties Sunday to discuss an anti-terrorism plan.

In Washington, President Bush promised to support India in its recovery effort and investigation.

"We mourn those who lost their lives, including American citizens," he said. "We pray that the injured will recover. We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice and sustains its democratic way of life."

Lakshmi reported from New Delhi. Staff writer Joby Warrick in Washington and special correspondents Shaiq Hussain and Haq Nawaz Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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