By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 5, 2008
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 4 -- The United States turned up the pressure on Pakistan on Thursday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a visit here, urged the country's leaders to move forcefully against groups linked to the deadly attack last week in the Indian city of Mumbai.
Rice, who met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials near the capital of Islamabad, said Pakistan has agreed to cooperate and share information with India.
"Pakistan is very committed to this war on terror and does not in any way want to be associated with terrorism elements and is, indeed, committed to rooting them out wherever they find them," Rice said.
Rice's visit to Pakistan followed a trip to India on Wednesday and came after a visit to Pakistan by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Rice arrived in the region as Indian authorities identified a second suspected organizer of the Mumbai attacks, which claimed at least 174 lives, including six Americans, and injured nearly 300. Rakesh Maria, India's joint commissioner of police, said that Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhwi, a commander with the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba, had spoken with the attackers as they journeyed from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Mumbai by sea, and may have been in touch during the attacks. Maria said the sole surviving attacker, Azam Amir Kasab, 21, identified Lakhwi and said he helped "indoctrinate all the attackers."
"The crux of the investigation will focus on finding out first if there was local help, then the identities of the other nine and their training and planning," Maria said.
In the first solid indication the attackers may have had help within India, Maria also said police were investigating whether a Mumbai man arrested on terrorism charges helped stake out the targets, including the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the old Victoria rail station.
The suspected collaborator, Faheem Ahmed Ansari, was arrested in February in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in connection with a gun and grenade attack on a police camp. According to the police report, the 35-year-old met with people connected with Lashkar when he lived in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates; those people put him in touch with operatives in Pakistan.
He reached Karachi in early 2007 and, over the next nine months, obtained training in explosives, "surveillance techniques, intelligence gathering, agent handling," the police report said. It said an instructor named Kahafa asked Ansari to identify many important Mumbai locations on a Google Earth image and a physical map. The sites included the Taj hotel, the police commissioner's office, a stadium and the office of the Reliance Energy company. He later returned to Mumbai and both photographed and videotaped key sites.
The report said Ansari carried two passports, Indian and Pakistani.
Indian officials had earlier named Lashkar commander Yusuf Muzammil as one of possibly four alleged organizers of the assault on two luxury hotels, a train station, a hospital, a Jewish cultural center and other sites. Authorities in the Indian capital of New Delhi have called for Pakistan to extradite Muzammil and Lakhwi, along with Lashkar's alleged leader, Hafiz Sayeed, to India. Pakistan has declined to act on those demands and has denied involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
In a further indication of the brutality of last week's assault, Maria said Thursday that evidence had emerged suggesting those killed at the Jewish center may have been tortured. The bodies, he said, were "beaten badly. There was heavy assault there."
Rice did not specifically mention Lashkar in her remarks during a meeting with a group of journalists Thursday. But she said the perpetrators of the attack in Mumbai had shown "a level of sophistication that we haven't seen here on the subcontinent before. That means there's an urgency to getting to the bottom of it."
Zardari, Pakistan's president, has asked India to refrain from blaming his government but has also vowed to cooperate in a joint investigation. In a statement issued Thursday, he said India should view the inquiry as a chance to work together and mend the long-standing divisions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.
Lashkar was founded two decades ago with the help of Pakistan's powerful intelligence agencies to fight Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. For years, Lashkar operated openly with the tacit support of Pakistan's government, running its terrorist training camps in plain view of authorities.
That changed after the government banned Lashkar following a deadly 2001 assault on India's Parliament in New Delhi. But U.S. and Indian intelligence officials have said the group reconstituted itself under the alias of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, operating by day as a charity but by night as the central node in a vast network of terrorist training, financing and operations.
Members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa gathered Thursday with several reporters on a 75-acre compound in the town of Muridke, near Lahore, where the group runs two schools and a hospital. A spokesman for the group, who gave reporters a tour of the grounds, denied his organization has links to Lashkar. "Lashkar-i-Taiba was banned in 2002. After that, they have formed their own organizational structure and we have formed our own organizational structure," said Jamaat-ud-Dawa spokesman Abdullah Muntazir.
Muntazir said Jamaat-ud-Dawa is strictly a charitable organization and does not operate in what he called "Indian-occupied Kashmir." But he nonetheless expressed disdain for the Indian government. "We perceive India as a threat to the Pakistani nation," Muntazir said. "And we're trying to stop their activities here in Pakistan, because India is involved in numerous terrorist activities here in Pakistan and India blames us for everything."
Correspondents Emily Wax and Rama Lakshmi in Mumbai and special correspondent Mohammed Rizwan in Lahore contributed to this report.