Pakistani militants admit role in Mumbai attacks: NYT

January 1st, 2009 - 10:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 1 (IANS) Pakistani authorities have obtained confessions from members of the Pakistani militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba that they were involved in the Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the New York Times reported Thursday citing a Pakistani official.The confessions are sure to put pressure on Pakistan’s leaders, the influential US daily said in a report from Islamabad, noting that senior Pakistani officials have repeatedly complained in recent weeks that India has not provided them evidence of Pakistani complicity.

The most talkative of the senior Lashkar leaders being interrogated is said to be Zarrar Shah, the unnamed Pakistani official was quoted as saying.

The Times cited American intelligence officials as saying they believe that Shah, the group’s communications chief, has served as a conduit between Lashkar and the Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

His close ties to the agency and his admission of involvement in the attacks are sure to be unsettling for the Pakistani government and its spy agency.

An operational leader of Lashkar, Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi is also said to be cooperating with investigators. News of Shah’s confession was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“These guys showed no remorse,” said the Pakistani official quoted by the Times. “They were bragging. They didn’t need to be pushed, tortured or waterboarded” into making their statements.

The confessions made no mention of any involvement by the Pakistani government, said the official. “They talk about people acting on their own.”

Though Pakistani authorities announced that the men had been detained in the first week of December, the official declined to say how long it took for them to confess their role in the Mumbai siege, the Times said.

The official also declined to specify how many confessions had been obtained, and said: “It’s not just one confession.”

The details of which security officials were carrying out the interrogations, where the suspects were being detained and whether they faced any charges all remained murky, and other Pakistani officials declined to discuss the matter or to confirm the Pakistani official’s account, the US daily said.

The Times cited American intelligence officials as saying they believe that links remain between Lashkar and the ISI, and that the spy agency has helped support the militant group for the past several years by sharing intelligence and providing protection.

But American officials cited by the daily say they also believe that the spy agency has become more careful to mask its ties with militants since this summer, when American officials accused the spy agency of involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan.

One Lashkar fighter who left the group several years ago was cited as saying in an interview that the agency was directly involved in planning operations in the disputed Kashmir region. The agency’s officers were “at the table” as missions were being sketched out, the former Lashkar fighter said.

However, an active member of Lashkar said in an interview that relations with Pakistani security forces had grown cold, the Times said. “We always had to hide from the Indian military, but now we have to hide from the Pakistani military as well,” he was quoted as saying.

Some Pakistani officials appeared open to the idea that Pakistani militants carried out the operation, the Times said. It noted Mahmud Ali Durrani, the national security adviser, said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that it “could be” that some or all of the Mumbai attackers were Pakistanis.

One reason that Indian government officials have refused to provide substantive evidence so far, the Pakistani official cited by the Times said, is because they “are scared their intelligence methods will be discovered” by their Pakistani rivals.

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