Mumbai: The US, keeping its focus on South Asia in the wake of deadly Mumbai attacks, is sending a top diplomat to New Delhi to discuss fallout from the violence and Pakistan’s response, a US official said.
Deputy secretary of state John Negroponte was expected in New Delhi later this week, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited New Delhi and Islamabad last week.
The announcement came a day after police released names and photographs of suspected Islamic militants who staged the bloody three-day siege of Mumbai and said they uncovered new details about the gunmen—including hometowns in Pakistan.
The new information, if confirmed, would bolster India’s claim that the attack was launched from Pakistan and was released on Tuesday, 9 December, as the Pakistani government announced more arrests in raids on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that India blames for the assault on its financial capital.
Indian officials maintained a sceptical silence about the reported crackdown and arrest of an alleged mastermind of the Mumbai assault, which killed 173 people, raised fears of war between the nuclear-armed neighbours and eroded US hopes for a regional push against al-Qaida and other extremists.
Mumbai’s chief police investigator Rakesh Maria showed photographs of eight of the nine slain attackers—some from identity cards, but three were gruesome pictures of maimed faces. The body of the ninth was too badly burned, he said. The 10th gunman, previously identified as Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was captured alive.
Maria said all 10 attackers were from Pakistan and between the ages of 20 and 28. He did not say how police knew their hometowns, although they have been interrogating the lone surviving gunman.
In Russia, meanwhile, the head of that country’s federal anti-narcotics agency said India’s most notorious gangster, Dawood Ibrahim, had helped the gunmen.
“The information that has been received indicates that the well-known drug trafficker Dawood Ibrahim provided his logistics network for the preparation and implementation of the attacks,” the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta quoted Viktor Ivanov as saying.
Ibrahim, who India says fled to Pakistan after staging a series of Mumbai bombings in 1993, has been accused by Indian police of involvement in the drug trade.
As is often the case when Russian law enforcement officials talk about terrorism, Ivanov gave no details and provided no actual evidence.
The attackers, who apparently landed by boat on the Mumbai coast the night of 26 November, were led by Ismail Khan, 25, Maria said, describing him as a battle-hardened Lashkar veteran. The picture released shows a broad-shouldered man with a square, determined face.
As they split up to attack different targets, Khan went with Kasab to a crowded train station where they emptied assault rifles at helpless passengers before escaping.
Khan was eventually shot dead and Kasab captured, but not before they had killed the head of Mumbai’s Anti-Terror Force and several other officers.
Another picture showed Babar Imran, a gunman who has been described as “hauntingly calm” while holding six people hostage at a Jewish center.
Imran, with his long thin face and sleepy eyes, used the alias Abu Akasha, Maria said.
During the time he held Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, Holtzberg’s wife Rivka and four other visitors to the centre, Imran repeatedly answered Holtzberg’s mobile phone, talking to representatives of the Chabad movement in New York.
Imran spoke softly, said P.V. Viswanath, who translated the phone conversations in Urdu for Chabad officials.
“I think that shows something about his state of mind, it was very calm and collected,” Viswanath told the AP in New York, where he is a finance professor at Pace University.
Viswanath, who grew up in Mumbai and is an Orthodox Jew, said Imran didn’t display any anger or hatred for Jews. “He didn’t say anything about Israel or make any anti-Semitic comments.”
Commandos who stormed the Jewish centre after two days found all six hostages dead. The Holtzbergs’ two-year-old son Moshe survived when he was whisked out of the building by his nanny and another worker.
The youngest attacker was identified as 20-year-old Shoaib, alias Soheb. He was among those who fought off Indian commandos for three days at the luxury Taj Mahal hotel, Maria said.
Faiez Ahmad, a senior police official in Multan, Pakistan, where two of the gunmen allegedly came from, said authorities will check into the information if it is officially communicated to the Pakistani government.
With India and the US pressing Pakistan to crack down on Lashkar, Pakistani authorities shut some of the group’s offices and detained 20 more people on Tuesday, officials said, though they ruled out extraditing any to India.
A day earlier, the Pakistani government said its troops raided a Lashkar camp in Pakistan’s portion of disputed Kashmir on Sunday and arrested Zaki-ur-Lakhvi, the reputed planner of the Mumbai attack, along with 11 other suspected militants.
On Tuesday, troops raided at least five more Lashkar offices, acting on information gleaned from Lakhvi, a senior Pakistani security official said.
A Lashkar official confirmed there had been more raids on the group’s offices, but declined to elaborate. Both he and the security official insisting on speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.
India’s foreign ministry again declined to comment.