US warned India twice of Mumbai attack by sea a month ago: Reports (Lead)

December 2nd, 2008 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 2 (IANS) The US warned the Indian government about a potential maritime attack against Mumbai at least a month before last week’s terrorist strike in the country’s financial capital, media reports said here Tuesday.US intelligence indicated that a group might enter the country using a sea route and launch an attack on Mumbai, CNN said citing an unnamed US counter-terrorism official.

It said Indian security forces confirmed to it that not only did US officials warn them of a water-borne attack in Mumbai, but also that they were told this twice.

The area entered a higher state of alert for a week, including tightened security measures at hotels, but those efforts were eventually reduced, it said citing unnamed Indian officials.

Referring to the terrorist attacks that claimed 183 lives, US counter-terrorism officials continue to say signs are pointing to the Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based terror group allied with Al Qaeda, and they haven’t seen anything to rule it out, CNN said.

However, they will not definitively say the group is responsible.

ABCnews.com cited a second government source to say that specific locations in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal hotel, were listed in the US warning.

“US intelligence indicated that a group might enter the country by water and launch an attack on Mumbai,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

Indian intelligence also intercepted a satellite phone call Nov 18 to a number in Pakistan known to be used by a leader of the LeT, ABCnews.com quoted Indian intelligence officials as saying.

The intercept also revealed a possible sea-borne attack, it said citing officials.

Since last Friday, US intelligence agencies have been tracking the phones and SIM cards recovered by Indian authorities from the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attack, leading to a “treasure trove” of leads in Pakistan and several possible connections to the US, officials told the TV network.

Officials said one of the cell phone SIM cards might have been purchased in the US but would not provide any more details because of the ongoing investigation, the reports said.

The phones also include the same ‘Thuraya’ satellite phone intercepted in November by Indian intelligence agencies, the report said.

The United States National Security Agency, the report said, has the technical means to retrieve all calls made from satellite and cell phones in south Asia.

“Once we have the number, we will be able to know everyone who was called and where the calls were made from,” one former intelligence officer told the network.

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