Pakistani militant confesses to role in Mumbai attacks

The diplomatic row between India and Pakistan continues to deepen following the November terrorist attack as both countries send more troops to their borders.

Manish Swarup/AP
In New Delhi on Wednesday, Home Minster Palaniappan Chidambaram told journalists that India's president approved new anti-terror legislation to beef up police powers in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

A war of words continues between India and Pakistan amid new evidence that a Pakistani militant group masterminded the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) last month. And as Pakistan continues to move troops to its eastern border with India, analysts say Pakistan may be too distracted to effectively fight militants at home.

This week, The Wall Street Journal reported new evidence linking Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba to the Mumbai attacks:

At least one top leader of militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, or "Army of the Pure," captured in a raid earlier this month in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, has confessed the group's involvement in the attack as India and the U.S. have alleged, according to a senior Pakistani security official....
Pakistani security officials say a top Lashkar commander, Zarar Shah, has admitted a role in the Mumbai attack during interrogation, according to the security official, who declined to be identified discussing the investigation. "He is singing," the security official said of Mr. Shah. The admission, the official said, is backed up by U.S. intercepts of a phone call between Mr. Shah and one of the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the site of a 60-hour confrontation with Indian security forces....
[The revelation will increase] pressure on Pakistan to accept that the attacks, which left 171 dead in India, originated within its borders and to prosecute or extradite the suspects. That raises difficult and potentially destabilizing issues for the country's new civilian government, its military and the spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence -- which is conducting interrogations of militants it once cultivated as partners.

Despite the revelation, "India on Wednesday said Pakistan was in 'denial' over the Mumbai attacks and refusing to acknowledge evidence linking the gunmen who carried out the assault with elements in Pakistan," according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

[India's Home Minister P. Chidambaram] said the Pakistani father of the sole surviving gunman had confirmed to Pakistan television that his son was involved.
"If that is not evidence then what is?" Chidambaram said.

Amid the tension, both nations moved troops to their border, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Pakistan claimed India had moved troops to their shared border Tuesday, days after Pakistan itself shifted soldiers to the frontier, but New Delhi insisted it had done nothing to add to tensions between the nuclear-armed countries....
Most observers say a fourth war between the countries is highly unlikely, not least because few can imagine a scenario where India would benefit from it. Any attack on Pakistan would destabilize the country's new civilian government and strengthen its militant fringe, they say.

Last week, "Pakistani intelligence officials said the country was shifting up to 20,000 troops from the Afghan border area – where they are among more than 100,000 fighting al-Qaida and Taliban militants – to the Indian frontier. They spoke on condition of anonymity." The AP reports.

Indian officials denied that their troop movements were in preparation for any sort of attack, calling them normal winter exercises, according to The News, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee denied on Tuesday mobilisation of Indian forces on Pakistan border. He was responding to [Pakistani] Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi's proposal to India to de-activate forward bases and re-location of army units to peacetime positions to de-escalate tension in the region.
"We have not created any tension.... First there should be escalation from Indian side then the question of de-escalation will come. We have not escalated anything," he said. Mukherjee said the Indian army has made it clear that its military movements were a "normal winter exercise" and there was no question of such mobilization.

The focus on tensions with India is distracting Pakistan from its real threat: the rise of militancy along its border with Afghanistan, The Washington Post reports.

Many Pakistanis still view India as their real enemy and are far less concerned about the spread of radical Islam in their midst, while the country's powerful army appears to be more comfortable facing its conventional cross-border adversary to the east than waging a messy counterinsurgency campaign against fellow Muslims and Pakistanis on its own territory....
Even if the recent shift of troops away from the Afghan border and toward India proves largely a symbolic gesture, however, some analysts here say they worry a thinning of military ranks in the northwest could give Islamist forces a chance to become more entrenched in the conservative, impoverished region less than 100 miles from the capital.
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