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India says bombers supported by Pakistan

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Singh (The Spokesman-Review)

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Friday that this week’s railway bombings in Bombay had support from “elements across the border” in Pakistan, escalating the war of words between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and further casting a pall over the possibility of peace between them.

On a visit to survivors of Tuesday’s synchronized blasts, Singh accused Pakistan of falling down on its pledge not “to promote, encourage, aid and abet terrorism,” saying that “that assurance has to be fulfilled before the peace process and other processes progress.”

His remarks were the highest-level allegation yet that archrival Pakistan was at least indirectly responsible for the bombings, which killed as many as 200 people and wounded hundreds more. Until now, senior Indian officials had refrained from blaming Pakistan, concerned that it might derail already-spluttering peace talks between the two countries.

But investigators have said repeatedly in the past few days that the attack, which ripped through a key Bombay commuter line during the height of the evening rush hour, bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant group dedicated to forcing India to relinquish its portion of the contested Himalayan region of Kashmir. Lashkar-e-Taiba is based in Pakistan, operating through a Muslim charity despite Islamabad’s insistence that it had banned the group.

Pakistani officials Friday continued to reject allegations of involvement in the bombings in Bombay. A spokeswoman warned New Delhi from using the attack as a pretext for putting a further brake on the peace process, which has made only incremental progress over the past few years.

“The peace process between Pakistan and India is a separate matter. It is in the interest of both” that dialogue continue, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

Talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries, which were scheduled for the coming week, now look increasingly in doubt.

Before his remarks Friday, Singh had been under growing pressure to come out strongly against Pakistan, both from his political rivals, who accuse the government of taking too soft an approach toward Islamabad, and from the general public, which has embraced the view that Pakistan was directly or indirectly behind the bombings.