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India blames Pakistanis, calls for punishment

by Somi­ni Sen­gup­ta and Robert F. Worth
New York Times

Mum­bai, India

In a new sign of ris­ing ten­sion between two nuclear-armed neigh­bors, Indi­an for­eign min­istry offi­cials sum­moned Pak­istan’s ambas­sador Mon­day evening and told him Pak­ista­nis were respon­si­ble and must be pun­ished for last week’s ter­ror­ist attacks here, in which 173 peo­ple were killed over three days in the heart of Indi­a’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal.

India also sug­gest­ed that the plan­ners of the attacks are still at large in Pak­istan, say­ing India expect­ed “strong action would be tak­en” by Pak­istan against those respon­si­ble for the vio­lence, accord­ing to a state­ment released by the Min­istry of Exter­nal Affairs. The 10 men who appear to have car­ried out the attacks are now dead or in cus­tody.

The state­ment added tart­ly that Pak­istan’s actions “need­ed to match the sen­ti­ments expressed by its lead­er­ship that it wish­es to have a qual­i­ta­tive­ly new rela­tion­ship with India.”

It was not clear whether India had sup­plied Pak­istan with any proof of its claims. Pak­istani offi­cials have said that they are not aware of any links to Pak­istan-based mil­i­tants and that they would act swift­ly if they found one.

The Indi­an gov­ern­ment is fac­ing strong crit­i­cism at home for its han­dling of the attacks, and with elec­tions just months away, it could risk being accused of divert­ing pub­lic anger from its fail­ures if it does not fur­nish evi­dence for its claims. But there is also a groundswell of pop­u­lar anger in Mum­bai against Pak­istan.

The attacks have raised ten­sions between the two coun­tries to a lev­el not seen since 2001, when a sui­cide attack on the Indi­an par­lia­ment pushed them to the brink of war.

The omi­nous atmos­phere pos­es a spe­cial chal­lenge for the Unit­ed States, a strong ally of India and also depen­dent on Pak­istan for coop­er­a­tion in fight­ing al Qae­da. Renewed ten­sions between India and Pak­istan could dis­tract Pak­istan from that project.

Pres­i­dent Bush has dis­patched Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleez­za Rice to India, where she is expect­ed to arrive on Wednes­day.

Speak­ing in Lon­don on Mon­day, she called on Pak­istan in blunt terms “to fol­low the evi­dence wher­ev­er it leads,” adding, “I don’t want to jump to any con­clu­sions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for com­plete, absolute, total trans­paren­cy and coop­er­a­tion.”

The for­eign min­istry’s claim that the attack­ers were all Pak­istani echoes a claim by the one attack­er who was cap­tured alive, iden­ti­fied as Ajmal Amir Qasab, said Inspec­tor Rakesh Maria, head of the crime con­trol bureau at the Mum­bai police. Qasab also said he was a mem­ber of Lashkar-e-Tai­ba, a mil­i­tant Islamist group blamed for ter­ror­ist attacks in Indi­an-admin­is­tered Kash­mir and else­where.

How­ev­er, no for­eign iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments were found, and some of the attack­ers had fake Indi­an papers, Inspec­tor Maria added.

Maria also said there were only 10 attack­ers in all, deny­ing ear­li­er sug­ges­tions by pub­lic offi­cials that more may have been involved. It remains unclear whether more attack­ers may remain at large, and whether the mil­i­tants had at least some accom­plices on the ground before the vio­lence began on Wednes­day night.

Some new details emerged Mon­day about the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by the Indi­an police com­man­dos who respond­ed to the killings here last week. The attack­ers used grenades to boo­by-trap some of the dead bod­ies in the two hotels where they struck, the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, Inspec­tor Maria said.

That tac­tic made fight­ing the attack­ers more dif­fi­cult, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly delayed the cleanup after the vio­lence end­ed, he said. The last mil­i­tants were rout­ed on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, but the Taj hotel was not returned to the con­trol of its own­ers until Mon­day morn­ing.

But those details seemed unlike­ly to blunt the ris­ing pub­lic anger at the gov­ern­men­t’s han­dling of the attacks, which have been wide­ly described here as Indi­a’s ver­sion of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks in the Unit­ed States. The ease with which the small band of attack­ers mowed down civil­ians in down­town Mum­bai, and resist­ed police com­man­dos for days in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent build­ings, has exposed glar­ing weak­ness­es in Indi­a’s intel­li­gence and enforce­ment abil­i­ties.

On Mon­day, ris­ing pub­lic out­cry pushed the chief min­is­ter of Maha­rash­tra State, Vilas­rao Desh­mukh, a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ing Con­gress Par­ty, to offer his res­ig­na­tion. Par­ty lead­ers were still con­sid­er­ing his offer Mon­day night.

“I accept moral respon­si­bil­i­ty for the ter­ror attacks,” he said at a news con­fer­ence.

Ear­li­er in the day, his deputy, R.R. Patil, offi­cial­ly stepped down. The two ges­tures came a day after Indi­a’s high­est-rank­ing domes­tic secu­ri­ty offi­cial, Home Min­is­ter Shiv­raj Patil, resigned, say­ing he took respon­si­bil­i­ty for the fail­ure to fore­stall or quick­ly con­tain the three-day killing spree.


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