Islamabad: Pakistan accepted for the first time on Thursday that the Mumbai terrorist attacks were launched from its shores and at least partly plotted on its soil.
Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik also said Pakistan had arrested most of the main suspects and had started criminal proceedings against them.
India termed the development as “positive” and expressed willingness to share whatever it can after examining the issues raised by Islamabad, an external affairs ministry statement said. India would follow the process of action initiated by Pakistan as it was keen to ensure the perpetrators of the crime are brought to justice, the statement said.
Step forward: Rehman Malik, Pakistan interior ministry chief speaks about the terror suspects at a press conference in Islamabad on 12 Feb. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
The revelations appear to suggest that Pakistan is serious about punishing those behind the November attacks, which killed 183 people and stirred fear that the nuclear-armed neighbours could slide towards war.
India and the US have urged Pakistan to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group widely blamed for the bloodshed. Pakistan has already arrested several of its leaders.
Malik said investigators had traced a boat engine used by the attackers to sail from Pakistan to India and busted two hideouts of suspects near the city of Karachi.
Other leads pointed to Europe and the US. Malik said Pakistan would ask the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for help.
“Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan and...according to the available information, most of them (the suspects) are in our custody,” Malik said at a media conference.
New Delhi says all 10 gunmen—only one of whom was captured alive—were Pakistanis and that their handlers in Pakistan had kept in touch with them by phone during the three-day assault.
In the first readout on Pakistan’s investigation, Malik said criminal cases had been opened against eight suspects on charges of “abetting, conspiracy and facilitation” of a terrorist act. He said six of them were already in custody.
Malik said the assailants used three boats to travel from Pakistan to Mumbai.
He said detectives had traced an engine recovered from one of the vessels to a shop in the Pakistani port city of Karachi. He said the shopkeeper had provided the phone number of the buyer which led them to Hammad Amin Sadiq.
Malik said authorities had arrested Sadiq and obtained from him information that led them to bust two “hideouts of the terrorists”, one in Karachi and one about two hours drive away. He described Sadiq as “the main operator”, but didn’t elaborate.
Malik said the pieces of evidence collected “connect to” the leadership of Lashkar-e-Taiba, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, who India says masterminded the attacks.
But he said Pakistan needed more assistance from India if it was to bring a successful criminal prosecution.
The terrorists used phones with Indian SIM cards, Malik said. Suspects also used a digital teleconferencing system whose service provider is based in Houston, Texas, while a Thuraya phone was issued in a “Middle Eastern country”, Malik said.
“It is not only Pakistan, but the system of the other countries has also been used,” Malik said.
PTI contributed to this story.