Rice urges Pakistan to ‘act quickly’ in Mumbai terror investigation

During a visit to India Wednesday, the US secretary of State said Pakistan’s cooperation could help smooth fragile India-Pakistan relations.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in India today, as accusations mounted that the Mumbai (formerly Bombay) attackers were part of a Pakistani-based militant group. Her trip came alongside the arrival to Pakistan of the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

On Wednesday, "India ... accused a senior leader of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba of orchestrating last week's terror attacks that killed at least 172 people here, and demanded the Pakistani government turn him over and take action against the group," The Wall Street Journal reports, adding:

Just two days before hitting the city, the group of 10 terrorists who ravaged India's financial capital communicated with Yusuf Muzammil and four other Lashkar leaders via a satellite phone that they left behind on a fishing trawler they hijacked to get to Mumbai, a senior Mumbai police official told The Wall Street Journal. The entire group also underwent rigorous training in a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the official said.

At a news conference in New Delhi, Ms. Rice urged Pakistan to act quickly, Reuters reports.

"We have to act with urgency, we have to act with resolve," Rice said.
"I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency and cooperate fully and transparently. That message has been delivered and will be delivered to Pakistan," Rice said.

The New York Times adds that Rice tried to remain neutral, calling for calm, rather than pointing fingers.

Ms. Rice said it was premature to comment on whether any particular organization was responsible for the attacks on India's financial and entertainment capital. She described the assault last week as distinct from others that had struck India since it targeted high-profile targets, including those frequented by foreigners, and appeared to be designed to "send a message."
"Whether there is a direct Al Qaeda hand or not, this is clearly the kind of terror in which Al Qaeda participates," she said.

But on Tuesday, another US official for the first time publicly accused a Pakistani-based militant organization of orchestrating the attack, the Associated Press reports.

The same group that carried out last week's attack is believed to be behind the 2006 Mumbai train bombings that killed more than 200, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said Tuesday during a speech at Harvard University.
McConnell did not identify the group by name. However, the Indian government has attributed the 2006 attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist group based in Kashmir, and the Students Islamic Movement of India.
McConnell is the first U.S. official to publicly identify Lashkar as the likely perpetrator. Earlier Tuesday, a senior State Department official told reporters only that evidence suggests that the brutal, prolonged attack had some roots in Pakistan. Privately, U.S. and foreign counterterrorism officials fingered Lashkar last week.

Pakistan has thus far tried to play down the role of Pakistani militant groups, according to The Times of India.

Pakistan on Monday said it is yet to "see evidence" backing India's allegations of a Pakistani link to the terror strikes in Mumbai but promised to "act responsibly" on the issue....
[Prime Minister Yousuf Raza] Gilani demanded that India should provide evidence before levelling any allegations about Pakistan's involvement in the Mumbai attacks. "We have yet to see evidence," he said.

On Tuesday, Pakistan sought to defuse tensions by proposing "a joint mechanism with India to investigate the Mumbai carnage as part of its offer of complete cooperation in efforts to unearth 'the hands behind the dastardly act,' " Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported.

The proposal was made at a briefing by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to foreign diplomats a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begins her visit to the region.

Despite the overtures, The Wall Street Journal contends that the new evidence "is giving fresh ammunition to the Indian government, which has long tried to pressure Pakistan into cracking down on Lashkar-e-Taiba. India claims the group enjoys support from elements of the Pakistani intelligence agency. Pakistan denies that. It outlawed the organization in 2002, but has done little to curtail its operations."

For now, Reuters India reports, India has backed away from threats of a military retaliation.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said military action was not being considered but later warned a peace process begun in 2004 was at risk if Pakistan did not act decisively.
"It has vitiated the atmosphere," Mukherjee said of the attacks in an interview to NDTV television. "While we have no intention of not carrying on with the peace process, when people's sentiments are affected it creates an atmosphere not to carry on business as usual, it has some impact."
Public sentiment in India has focused more domestically, with protests over government handling of the attacks scheduled for Wednesday night in Mumbai, Reuters reports.
A large protest was planned in Mumbai on Wednesday night by residents more angry at what they see as a huge government security failure than Pakistani involvement.
Advertising executive Sunil Agarwal, 42, said India's intelligence apparatus should be disbanded.
"What use do we have for them? Look at the U.S. after 9/11. There have been no more attacks. That's because their security apparatus is so effective. Their politicians value human life. Ours don't," he told Reuters.

In Pakistan, the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi appeared on television to calm nerves, Dawn reports. "I will like to tell the people of Pakistan that there is no cause for worry. The government and armed forces of Pakistan are united and capable of defending the country's borders and interests," he said.

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