New Delhi/Islamabad: The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday threatened to attack Indian targets to avenge the death of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a terrorist involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack who was hanged in a Pune jail on Wednesday.
“We have decided to target Indians to avenge the killing of Ajmal Kasab,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Kasab, member of the banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was hanged on Wednesday amid great secrecy, underscoring the political sensitivity of the 26 November 2008 massacre, which still casts a pall over relations between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India.
Ehsan demanded that India return Kasab’s body.
“If they don’t return his body to us or his family, we will capture Indians and will not return their bodies,” he said, adding that the Taliban will try to strike Indian targets “anywhere”.
Such a threat has indeed been made, a home ministry official said.
“We have got intelligence inputs from the agencies about this threat. They (intelligence agencies) are analysing. As of now, there is no need to raise an alarm as security and intelligence agencies are already on an alert,” the official said requesting anonymity.
Former home secretary G.K. Pillai dismissed the threat. “There is nothing to be worried about as precautionary measures are already in place. Kasab was just one of the foot soldiers among thousands. Had India executed real players like Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi (one of the founding members of LeT and wanted in 26/11 terror attack) or others, then it would have been a matter of worry for our security,” he said.
“India is not new to such threats from Pakistani Taliban. In the past, they had attacked Indian embassy in Kabul. This time they must be recruiting or training new cadres so this threat should only be seen as an attempt to boost morale of their cadres in the light of Kasab’s death,.” he added.
But S.D. Pradhan, former deputy national security adviser, said this threat cannot be taken lightly. “LeT has close links with Taliban and over the time their relations have grown. So there is a possibility of a joint strike at strategic locations and tourists place in the country. They will aim to target Mumbai again and other such important places. The threat should be taken very seriously.”
“We take all such threats very seriously and we are taking all steps that are required in this regard,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. “The government takes all such threats seriously there is no question of taking things lightly. I cannot give you details of what we are doing, but we are taking all steps required to safeguard our interests.”
The Taliban, which is close to Al Qaeda, are seen as one of the biggest security threats in Pakistan and blamed for many suicide bombings in that country. They have not carried out major attacks abroad.
Kasab was charged with 86 offences, including murder and waging war against India.
It was the first time a capital sentence had been carried out in India since 2004. There was celebration on the streets of Mumbai and other cities as news of the execution spread, but militant groups in Pakistan reacted angrily, as did residents of his home village of Faridkot.
People set off fireworks and handed out sweets in Indian cities. Some held up photos of Kasab with a rope noose superimposed over his head.
Mint’s Elizabeth Roche in New Delhi contributed to this story.