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Pakistan Targets Base Of Suspected Mumbai Attackers


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice says "there's no doubt that Pakistani territory was used, by probably nonstate actors."
(RFE/RL) -- Reports say a suspected planner of last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, has been arrested during a raid conducted by Pakistani security forces in the Pakistani-administered Kashmir region.

The December 7 raid targeted a camp linked to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. India blames Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks, which killed more than 170 people.

Unidentified Pakistani security officials, as well as militants from Lashkar-e-Taiba, have said that among the four people arrested was Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Authorities in India say Lakhvi, one of Lashkar-e-Taiba's operations chiefs, was named as a ringleader in the Mumbai plot by a lone surviving gunman who was captured by security forces in India.

New Delhi alleges that Lakhvi and Yusuf Muzammil, the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba's anti-India operations, gave orders for the attacks by telephone to the militants.

Pakistan has been under pressure from India and the United States to take action on intelligence reports suggesting the Mumbai attackers and their plot originated on Pakistani soil.

'Very Much At Large'

However, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid tells RFE/RL that Hafiz Saeed, the jihadi leader who founded Lashkar-e-Taiba, was not targeted by Pakistani security forces and is still living in Lahore.

"We know that the government since Sunday night [December 7] has started making raids on camps run by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistani Kashmir. And it seems to be making some arrests and closing down some these camps," Rashid says. "But no official explanation has yet been given as to exactly what is going on. However, the leader of the group -- Hafiz Saeed, who says that now he is running a charitable organization -- is very much at large and living in Lahore."

Both the United States and India have put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups on its territory that are alleged to have been involved in the Mumbai attacks.

The December 7 raid came after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington has no doubt that "Pakistani territory was used, probably by nonstate actors," for planning the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan has said it will cooperate with India and Washington in an investigation. But Islamabad also has demanded proof that attackers came from Pakistan, raising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

'Creating Mayhem'

Rashid says the increased pressure means that militant groups which operate openly on Pakistani soil must be shut down and its members arrested.

"The point is that many of these groups are deeply involved with Al-Qaeda. They are involved with the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban. They are creating mayhem in India and Iraq and around the world," Rashid says.

"These groups have had it very easy so far. They have to be put away. But also, at the same time, what is needed is a strategic rethink by the military as to how it looks at national security," he adds.

Analysts say Lashkar-e-Taiba was created with the help of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in the 1980s to act as a proxy fighting force in Indian Kashmir.

Rashid says Pakistan's military needs to stop looking at militant groups as possible tools for attaining Islamabad's foreign-policy goals.

"The problem is that these groups are still very much part of the military's national-security strategy vis-a-vis India," he says. "And until we revise this national-security [strategy] and understand that these groups are a threat not only to neighboring countries who may be considered enemy countries, but also to Pakistan itself, only then will we see a change."

Militants admit the camp raided on December 7 near Muzaffarabad had been used until 2004 by Laskhar-e-Taiba to train recruits to fight Indian rule in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir.

But the militants say that more recently, the camp was being used by Lashkar-e-Taiba's parent organization, Jama't-ud-Da'wah, as a base for charity work.

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