US intelligence points to Lashkar-e-Taiba for Mumbai attacks: NYT

November 29th, 2008 - 10:18 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 29 (IANS) There is mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the New York Times reported Saturday citing American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.However, the unnamed “American officials cautioned that they had reached no hard conclusions about who was responsible for the operation, nor on how it had been planned and carried out,” the influential daily said.

“Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered over the past two days has pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba, or possibly another Pakistani group focused on Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad,” it said.

The Times said cited American officials insisted on anonymity in describing their current thinking and declined to discuss the intelligence information that they said pointed to Kashmiri militants.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is thought by American intelligence agencies to have received some training and logistical support in the past from Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the daily said.

But American officials said Friday that there was no evidence that the Pakistani government had any role in the Mumbai attacks, the Times said.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has, for the most part, not targeted Westerners in past attacks, as some reports said the attackers in Mumbai did. But one counter-terrorism official cited by Times said that the group “has not pursued an exclusively Kashmiri agenda” and that the group might certainly go after Westerners to advance a broader goals.

The daily cited the official as saying that there was also strong evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba had a “maritime capability” and would definitely have been capable of mounting the sophisticated operation in Mumbai, which intelligence officials say they believe began when the attackers arrived in the city in small boats.

American and Indian officials are pursuing the possibility that the attackers arrived off the coast of Mumbai in a larger merchant ship, and then boarded the smaller boats before they launched the attack.

Even as a Kashmiri connection to the attacks began to emerge Friday, American officials cited by the Times said there were puzzled by some developments of the past two days.

For instance, they said they still know next to nothing about a group called the Deccan Mujahedeen that has reportedly taken responsibility for the attacks.

Terrorism experts have said there is no evidence that the group was involved in past strikes, and speculated that the name was made up by another militant group to mask responsibility for the attacks, the US daily said.

A State Department report issued this year called Lashkar-e-Taiba “one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmiri-focused militant groups.”

The report said that the group drew funding in part from Pakistani expatriate communities in the Middle East, despite the freezing of its assets by the United States and Pakistan in 2002, after the attack on the Indian p arliament.

The report said that the actual size of the group was unknown, but estimated its strength at “several thousand” members.

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