NEW DELHI (AFP) – India for the first time directly accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agency of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, amid reports Islamabad’s own probe will suggest the assault was planned in Bangladesh.
In a speech in Paris reported by the Indian media Friday, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said the perpetrators “planned, trained and launched their attacks from Pakistan, and the organisers were and remain clients and creations of the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).”
The stunning November assault on India’s financial capital, when 10 gunmen killed 165 people during a 60-hour siege, has led to a furious blame game that has sharply escalated tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
In January, India handed Islamabad a dossier of what it said was evidence linking “elements” in Pakistan to the attack.
India has blamed the assault on the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is active in Indian-ruled Kashmir, but the Pakistan-based organisation has denied responsibility.
Pakistan has confirmed that the lone surviving Mumbai gunman, who is now in Indian custody, is one of its citizens, but it insists that the attackers were “non-state actors.”
India had previously blamed the ISI for a suicide attack on its embassy in Kabul last July, in which 60 people, including India’s military attache and a diplomat, were killed.
Menon said India had long suffered from “terrorist organisations, their support structures, official sponsors and funding mechanisms, which transcend national borders but operate within them.”
He also criticised foreign arms sales to Pakistan in the name of fighting terrorism, saying it was like selling “whisky to an alcoholic.”
The United States has been one of Pakistan’s key military backers, including providing F-16 fighter jets in return for political support for its operations in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper, Dawn, reported that investigators probing the Mumbai attacks for the government in Islamabad had uncovered evidence implicating a banned Bangladesh-based militant organisation, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islmani (HuJI).
The report, based on unidentified sources, also mentioned the possibility that one of the gunmen was of Bangladeshi origin.
The probe “is likely to indicate that the Mumbai attack was the handiwork of an ‘international network of Muslim fundamentalists’ present in South Asia and spread all the way to Middle East,” Dawn said.
“Although the Bangladesh connection has emerged quite prominently in the investigations, there are also clear indications that some of the planning for the attacks was done in Dubai and there is also an element of local Indian support,” it added.
There was no immediate official Pakistani confirmation of the Dawn report.
HuJI has been blamed for a series of attacks in Bangladesh, including the 2004 grenade blasts at a rally in Dhaka at which the current premier Sheikh Hasina was speaking.
It was also accused of responsibility over a series of synchronised bomb blasts across the northeast Indian state of Assam in November in which nearly 80 people were killed.
The group’s chief Mufti Abdul Hannan was sentenced to death late last year after he was found guilty of masterminding an attack on British ambassador to Bangladesh in 2003.
Bangladesh said Friday it was unaware of any evidence implicating HuJI in the Mumbai assault.
“First of all we don’t have any information. If anyone has any information, share with us. We are ready to cooperate,” Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain told AFP.