Pakistan: Mumbai attacks were planned on its soil
Carnage last year killed around 170 people
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani officials took what could be a decisive step forward in the country’s fight against Islamic extremism Thursday, publicly admitting for the first time that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were planned in and launched from Pakistan.
“Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan,” Rehman Malik, the top security official in the Interior Ministry, told a news conference in Islamabad. “I want to assure the international community, I want to assure all those who have been victims of terrorism, that we mean business.”
Before the announcement, Pakistani officials had denied that there was any proof that its citizens were involved in the November Mumbai attacks, which killed some 170 people and pushed nuclear-armed Pakistan and India to the verge of war. Indian officials Thursday promptly welcomed the Pakistani admission as a “positive development.”
The steps Malik outlined could be Islamabad’s most serious action yet against militant groups, and they coincided with a visit this week from the Obama administration’s new special envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke. Washington has long pressed Pakistan for tougher measures against extremists, but some Pakistani military and intelligence officials have been reluctant to take action against Islamist groups when they consider India to be Pakistan’s main enemy.
Malik said that Pakistan has eight suspects in the Mumbai attacks, including the alleged mastermind, who are together accused of orchestrating the attacks. Six of the eight are in custody, and criminal cases were filed against them on Thursday. The Interior Ministry said that most, and possibly all, of the conspirators belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group that Indian officials have accused of carrying out the Mumbai carnage.
Malik said the ringleader, Hamad Amin Sadiq, a 38-year-old he described as the “main operator,” was among those in custody.
Pakistani authorities found one of the boats used by the Mumbai assailants and the crew, confirming that the terrorists set off from Karachi. They located the shop in Karachi where the attackers bought a boat engine to power the inflatable craft they used to land in India, and that led them to an arrest and to the bank account used for payment, Malik said.
Malik stressed that the conspirators were “non-state actors,” a response to Indian allegations that Pakistan – especially its Inter-Services Intelligence agency – helped orchestrate the attack.