New Delhi: Home minister P. Chidambaram said founder of banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Hafiz Saeed was present at the Karachi control room from where the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks were orchestrated.
This is the first time India is directly blaming Saeed for masterminding the Mumbai attacks. India’s allegations are based on the results of the interrogation of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who was said to be present in the control room and had taught Hindi to the 10 gunmen who killed 166 people over three days in November 2008. Jundal was brought to New Delhi from Saudi Arabia on 21 June and is said to be involved in many other terrorist attacks in the country.
Sharing details: Home minister P. Chidambaram (right) with home secretary R.K. Singh at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday.
Jundal’s interrogation is helping India fill in the missing pieces of the 26/11 attack conspiracy, Chidambaram said on Friday, adding that the control room could not have been set up without state support.
“Others were present (in the control room) and we think one of them was Hafiz Saeed,” Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.
Saeed had founded LeT, one of the largest Islamist militant organizations in South Asia, in the 1990s. He abandoned its leadership after India accused it and another militant group of being behind an attack on its Parliament in December 2001. In April, the US announced a bounty of $10 million (around Rs 55 crore) but since then Saeed had dared both India and the US to arrest him.
Chidambaram and Union home secretary R.K. Singh criticized Pakistan for failing to admit to the involvement of the country in the 26/11 attacks.
“I agree with Rehman Malik (advisor to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on internal affairs matter) that Abu Jundal is an Indian, perhaps he was radicalized in India. I admit that,” Chidambaram said, adding: “Pakistan should admit that Abu Jundal did go to Pakistan, that Abu Jundal was part of the group which trained and prepared (Ajmal Amir) Kasab and nine others, that Abu Jundal was in the control room and one of the masterminds and handlers of the attack.”
Singh said Pakistan should admit that it gave a passport to Abu Jundal. “They (Pakistan) gave two identity cards to him and they should also admit the fact that they claimed that he was a Pakistani (before the Saudi authorities).”
Chidambaram said despite the bonhomie with Pakistan in the last one year, there has been no let-up in terrorist threats emanating from the neighbouring nation. There has been no change in security situation with respect to Pakistan, he said.
“We are alive to the fact that LeT is very much active, is extremely active on Pakistan’s soil. And threat is still there... the government policy is to normalize relations with Pakistan through border trade, railway and bus services and exchange of prisoners... But at the same time, we will remain ever vigilant to terror threats. There is no let down in the guard,” he said.
India snapped ties with Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. India, which had come to the brink of war with the neighbouring country, however, decided to resume dialogue last year.
In the last one year, prime ministers, home ministers and foreign ministers of both countries have held separate meetings with each other. The two countries also announced a series of confidence-building measures that included opening up of the border for trade and foreign direct investment from Pakistan into India.