New Delhi: India announced a massive overhaul of its security and intelligence agencies Thursday in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks that left 171 dead and provoked a public outcry over the government’s response.
Among the new measures, the government will seek to create an FBI-style national investigative agency, beef up coastal security, better train local police, strengthen anti-terror laws and increase intelligence sharing, said Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, the country’s top law enforcement official.
“Given the nature of the threat, we can’t go back to business as usual,” Chidambaram said in a speech to India’s Parliament, adding he would “take certain hard decisions to prepare the country and people to face the challenge of terrorism.”
The revamp represents the government’s first detailed response to widespread public anger over security and intelligence failures in the attacks. Chidambaram has previously apologized for government “lapses” in the assault.
Meanwhile, police in Mumbai backed off of plans to produce the only surviving attacker, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, in court Thursday for a routine hearing, citing security concerns.
Instead, a magistrate came to police headquarters and granted authorities permission to hold Kasab for a further two weeks, public prosecutor Eknath Dhamal said, without providing details of the decision. Under Indian law, police can extend detentions for months on end before formal criminal charges are filed.
A security cordon was thrown around the downtown Mumbai building where Kasab was being held, and journalists were kept 200 yards (180 meters) away, their view blocked by a police van.
Kasab, who was wounded and captured by police in the first hours of the Nov. 26 attack, has been repeatedly interrogated by authorities and reportedly offered key details about the planning of the assault and those responsible for it.
Many lawyers across the city, horrified by the attacks, have said they would not represent Kasab. On Thursday, Dinesh Mota, a lawyer asked by the court to defend Kasab, said he would refuse.
“I will not represent him, it is against all human values,” he said.
On Wednesday, police identified two more people involved in the training of the 10 attackers.
One of the trainers, identified only as Khafa and described as a senior operative in the banned Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was their main handler after the men were selected for the attack, Rakesh Maria, Mumbai’s chief police investigator.
The other man, another senior Lashkar militant identified as Abu Hamza, was responsible for much of the training they received while sequestered in a house in Azizabad, Pakistan, for three months to prepare for the attack, Maria said.
Abu Hamza was believed to be one of two gunmen responsible for the 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, that killed one scientist, Maria said. After that attack, Abu Hamza escaped back to Pakistan, he said.
Police said Lashkar, the group investigators blame for the Mumbai siege, also kept an Indian militant as a “point man” to shepherd gunmen across India’s porous borders to stage attacks.
Sabauddin Ahmed, accused of managing militant safe houses in Nepal, was being brought to Mumbai for questioning. Ahmed was arrested in February following a deadly raid on an Indian police station.
Ahmed’s position in Nepal extends the reach of Lashkar and could represent another blow to Indian officials who say Pakistan-based militants were entirely responsible.
“He was their main point man in Katmandu, a very trusted man by Lashkar,” Amitabh Yash, director of the police task force that arrested Ahmed, said.
Also Wednesday, a U.N. Security Council panel declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization, subject to U.N. sanctions, as sought by India and the U.S. It specifically designated four men connected to Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar as terrorists, including Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the suspected mastermind of the attacks.
The U.N. Security Council called Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which casts itself as a charity, a front group for Lashkar.
Associated Press writers Ravi Nessman and Ramola Talwar Badam in Mumbai, and Sam Dolnick and Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.