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More Indian Officials Quit in Aftermath of Attacks

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Authorities finished removing bodies from the bullet- and grenade-scarred Taj Mahal hotel Monday, the final site of the Mumbai siege to be cleared, as schools and businesses reopened and commuters returned to work. Video by AP

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By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 1, 2008; 10:34 AM

NEW DELHI, Dec. 1 -- More top Indian officials resigned Monday in the wake of last week's terror attacks in Mumbai, while the U.S. and Indian governments stepped up pressure on Pakistan to cooperate in investigating responsibility for a siege that left 174 dead.

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Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra state, which includes Mumbai, submitted his resignation as an acknowledgement of security failings that allowed the attack to extend over three days, and the ruling Congress Party was expected to accept his offer to step down. Deputy chief minister R.R. Patil resigned earlier on Monday, while Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil had quit the day before.

As authorities finished clearing bodies from the devastated Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, FBI forensic teams landed in the country and began visiting the hotel and other of the 10 sites attacked by a band of gunmen.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is en route to the country and said in London that the United States expects "total transparency and cooperation" from Pakistan as the investigation proceeds. The band of 10 attackers is thought to have trained in Pakistan, and the one surviving member of the group belongs to the outlawed Kashmiri guerrilla organization Lashkar-i-Taiba, according to Indian security officials.

"What we are emphasizing to the Pakistani government is the need to follow the evidence wherever it leads," Rice said, according to the Associated Press. "I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation, and that's what we expect."

India's government, meanwhile, protested what it deemed "the use of Pakistani soil for terrorist activities." The complaint was included in a letter submitted to Pakistan's top diplomat in the country. Indian officials said that they also presented evidence of Lashkar-i-Taiba's involvement in the attacks, and warned that relations between the two countries would suffer if Pakistan did not help fully in the probe.

In Islamabad, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari cautioned against letting "non-state actors" undermine relations between the two neighbors.

India is now grappling with the political and diplomatic fallout from one of its deadliest terror attacks in years, struggling to fashion a response amid mounting evidence that the attackers had ties to the outlawed group in Pakistan.

The resignation of Home Minister Patil came amid a growing chorus of public criticism over intelligence failures in the lead-up to the attacks and delays in the security response in the hours after it began. Public anger toward the government spilled onto the streets as protesters held up signs in front of the burned-out Taj Mahal hotel that read: "India has woken up. When will the politicians?"

More than 24 hours after the siege ended, authorities were still removing victims' bodies from the landmark hotel as distraught family members gathered. When politicians tried to express their condolences and give checks to the families of two of those killed -- a security commando and a police officer --- they were snubbed.

The public discontent is casting a shadow over India's fragile relations with its neighbor Pakistan. Preliminary Indian investigations have revealed that the gunmen were trained there and came to Mumbai on boats via the Arabian Sea. Lashkar-i-Taiba remains active in Pakistan despite having been banned nearly seven years ago.

"We are a nation outraged right now. And such incidents are always a grave setback to the peace process between India and Pakistan. This time our response will be very serious," Anand Sharma, India's deputy foreign minister, said in an interview Sunday.


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