05 March 2009

India believes Lashkar is behind Lahore attack

Lashkar wanted to punish Pakistani authorities for the action they took for 26/11 attacks... Additional Mumbai material to be given to Pakistan soon...

5 March 2009
The Hindu

India believes Lashkar is behind Lahore attack

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: India believes the Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind Tuesday’s commando-style attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, the motive being to punish the Pakistani authorities for the action they have taken so far against the banned outfit for its involvement in the November 26-29 terrorist incidents in Mumbai.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu on Wednesday that the LeT was reacting to the recent arrest of its leadership in the same manner that the Jaish-e-Mohammed turned against the Pakistani establishment following the crackdown on its activities after the December 2001 terrorist attack on India’s Parliament. “Then, the Jaish tried to assassinate Musharraf,” a senior official said. “This time, the Lashkar have staged their first-ever internal attack and consciously repeated the Mumbai pattern in Lahore to show what they can do and demonstrate their capacity to inflict damage within Pakistan.”
“Lost control”

Describing the LeT as a “state within a state,” the official said the group does not see itself as a creature of the Pakistani state. “And the fact is that they are no longer creatures.” Since 9/11, the official Pakistani strategy has been to go after the jihadi groups bit by bit, accommodating and protecting some, attacking others. “But today, I think they have really lost control internally.”

The sources said it would be comforting to believe someone within the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was directing all jihadi terrorist activities within and without Pakistan but this was not the case.

“There is an anarchic situation and things are out of control. And personally, I don’t think they have the answer. I don’t think there is someone in the ISI fiendishly controlling things,” the official said.

Relevant questions

Confirming that India has readied its response to the questions Pakistan had on the Mumbai dossier, the officials said the additional material Pakistani investigators wanted could be handed over by the end of this week. “Most of the questions they have asked are relevant from the investigative standpoint, and we will provide answers,” the official said, adding that India was not interested in using procedural tools like Letters Rogatory or the fact that physical evidence was now in the possession of the courts to stonewall the Pakistanis.

Asked for their assessment of how the Lahore incident could impact Pakistan’s willingness to cooperate with India on the Mumbai probe, the sources said there was unlikely to be more clarity. “Because their establishment is so fragmented internally, Lahore will have a different impact on different sections,” said the official. Each section was likely to use Lahore to confirm its existing belief.

“Those who say the LeT and others pose a threat to Pakistan too and need to be destroyed will say they have been vindicated. But those who say Pakistan will only end up inviting more trouble upon itself by acting could also say ‘we told you so’,” he added. “So you could argue it both ways.”

The Lahore attack had confirmed India’s worst fears about the state of affairs in Pakistan, the sources said. “We are in for 10 to 15 years of flexible containment. You actually need to work each of these sections separately, engaging, for example, civil society and the business community, while hardening ourselves to deal with the kind of threats emanating from the anarchic situation there.”

The sources said it was wrong to assume that whatever cooperation Pakistan had shown so far was because of American pressure. “There are parts of their hierarchy which see [what happened in Mumbai] as an actual threat even to Pakistan,” the official said, adding, however, that the more fragmented the establishment becomes, “the narrower is the interest each section seeks to defend.” Thus, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is locked in combat with Nawaz Sharif, might end up trying to reach out to the Army. And that is probably why Admiral Noman Bashir, whose immediate concern was to shift the blame for Mumbai away from the Pakistani Navy, tried to say the terrorists never used the sea route, the officials said.

Asked what additional evidence from Mumbai India was likely to hand over to Pakistan, the officials said the material being prepared included some transcripts and actual recordings of telephone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers, as well as the DNA material and more detailed GPS data requested for. But the Indian side would also be seeking additional information from Pakistan. “We are not engaging in a point-scoring exercise but are going through the Mumbai charge sheet to formulate some specific requests,” the official said. However, India was not formally asking for access at this stage to detained LeT leaders like Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi. “We do want to interrogate all of them, but we want to do this legally. That stage will come later,” he added.


Anonymous said...

The News

Was attack on Sri Lankan team a bid to release Lakhvi?
Thursday, March 05, 2009
By Amir Mir

LAHORE: The Pakistani authorities investigating Tuesdayís bloody attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore are trying to ascertain whether it was an attempt by the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants to hijack the bus carrying the team and to bargain the release of their chief operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who is detained at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi and facing a trial for his alleged involvement in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The Pakistani authorities now investigating the 3/3 terrorist attack say there is growing evidence to suggest that the operation might have been planned by the banned LeT operatives, who actually wanted to take the sportsmen hostage, primarily to demand the release of their arrested commander and five others and their safe passage to the tribal areas, in exchange for the team players. The authorities say the Lashkar militants involved in the Lahore assault might have in their mind the successful hijacking of an Indian passenger aircraft in 2000, which eventually compelled the BJP government in India to release Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad who had been serving term in an Indian jail on terrorism charges.

In a related development, Prime Ministerís Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the preparations made by the Lahore attackers indicated that they wanted to hijack the bus carrying the visiting team. But he did not speculate on the identity of the attackers, saying the investigations were still going on.

Significantly, the day the attack was conducted, Zaki Lakhvi was to face the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) No II in Rawalpindi, along with four other Mumbai attack suspects. While the bus was being attacked, the Mumbai suspects were getting ready to face ATC Judge Sakhi Mohammad Kahut, who went to the Adiala Jail to conduct the in-camera trial inside the jail premises due to security concerns. The judge extended the physical remand of all the five suspects for 14 days to carry out further investigations.

Coming from Punjabís Okara district, to which also belongs Ajmal Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker who was nabbed alive by Indian security forces, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was arrested by the Pakistani agencies on December 10, 2008 in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

During interrogation, Kasab has reportedly confirmed that much of the 26/11 was designed and conducted by Lakhvi alias Chacha. In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the Indian authorities alleged that Lakhvi, usually based in Muzaffarabad, had moved to Karachi in August 2008, the port city from where LeT militants set off, so he could direct operations. Kasab has apparently told his interrogators that Lakhvi had helped indoctrinate all the Mumbai attackers. He is now presently facing terrorism charges that carry death sentence.

On the other hand, the Pakistani authorities concede that the security provided to the Sri Lankan team on the fateful day was extremely inadequate and it was by sheer luck that the 12-member strong well-trained group of the LeT attackers failed in its hostage-taking plan. The bus was peppered with 25 bullet holes, but none of the cricketers was killed. The investigators believe it was after the failure of their plan to seize the vehicle that the attackers started firing on the bus, which fortunately sped through the ambush.

The investigators say the items recovered from the crime scene included cricket kits containing AK-47s, light machine guns, hand grenades, small rocket launchers, plastic bombs and wireless sets.

According to Khawaja Khalid Farooq, the Inspector General of the Punjab Police, the militants were carrying sufficient weaponry to fight for many hours. While working in pairs, he said, the attackers carried walkie-talkies and backpacks stuffed with bottled water, almonds, biscuits and some high energy food, which showed that they actually anticipated a protracted siege.

The authorities pointed out that the appearance and tactics of the attackers and their selection of Lahore as the venue of the attack practically rules out everybody except them, primarily because of the deep roots the Lashkar has in Lahore. The founder of the banned militant organization, Hafiz Saeed, who now heads the Jamaat-ud-Daawa, lives in the Johar Town area of Lahore and his charity group is headquartered in Muridke, about 30 km from the Punjab capital.

Significantly, Hafiz Saeed ñ initially as head of the LeT, and later of the JuD — had officially been granted exclusive rights every year since 2000 to lead Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha congregations at the Qaddafi Stadium, where the Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricketers had been playing the second test.

However, a former office-bearer of the LeT, who is now based in Lahore, strongly refuted the Lashkarís involvement in the Lahore attack, saying its operational base had been shifted to Srinagar way back in December 2001 when Hafiz Saeed had stepped down as the LeT head and launched the JuD. “These allegations are a malicious attempt not only to malign the Lashkar but the ongoing freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir,” the former LeT office-bearer observed while requesting anonymity.

Anonymous said...

Asia Times Online

Pakistan's militants ready for more
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - Tuesday's attack in the Pakistani city of Lahore on a convoy carrying Sri Lankan cricketers was carried out by disgruntled Punjabi militants seeking to extract concessions from the government, Asia Times Online has learned.

And the 12 highly trained gunmen who fled the scene after killing six police officers and wounding six of the cricketers had planned to take the sportsmen hostage, not kill them, high-level sources maintain.

The militants, working directly under the command of a joint Punjabi and Kashmiri leadership based in the North Waziristan tribal area and allied with al-Qaeda, planned the Lahore operation. The object was to hold the cricketers ransom in exchange for

jailed militants and the safe passage of their colleagues to North Waziristan.

A spokesperson at the Sri Lankan Embassy at Islamabad also said on Tuesday that he did not believe the Sri Lankan players were meant to be killed as all fire was aimed at the police protecting the players.

The gunmen's plan to take hostages was foiled by the fierce resistance put up by the elite commandos of the Punjab police in the escorting convoy. They stood their ground and were quick to return fire. An assistant superintendent of police in the bus carrying the cricketers was smart enough to immediately urge the driver to speed to safety inside the Gaddafi Stadium where the Sri Lankans were due to resume their five-day Test match against Pakistan. The Sri Lankan team later presented the driver with their playing shirts as a sign of gratitude.

Items recovered from the scene of the attack just a few hundred meters from the stadium included bags containing AK-47s, light machine guns, hand grenades, small rocket launchers, plastic bombs and wireless sets.

Inspector General Khawaja Khalid Farooq of the Punjab police said the militants were carrying sufficient weaponry to fight for many hours. They also had plentiful supplies of food, such as almonds and mineral water.

Video footage of the incident shows the gunmen as extremely composed and well trained and dressed in urban attire, including running shoes - nothing like the rustic mountain-dwelling Taliban fighters who invariably wear traditional clothing such as turbans, long robes and sandals. They also appeared to be in excellent physical condition.

All indications are that the militants are "good sons of the soil" trained by Pakistan's premier secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence's India cell to fight against the Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir. The ISI shut its Kashmir operations a few years ago and many militants joined forces with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Indeed, the appearance and modus operandi of the gunmen resembles that of the 10 gunmen who attacked Mumbai in India last November in a two-day rampage of violence that led to the deaths of 180 people, including all but once of the militants. Investigations showed that the men were linked to the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has deep roots in the Kashmir struggle.

These "Kashmir" militants are mostly non-Pashtun (unlike the Taliban), with the majority being ethnic Punjabis.

Troubles in the mountains
The attack on Tuesday is most likely related to events in the Swat Valley, where the government last month signed a peace treaty with militants after several years of fighting. The accord also allowed for the implementation of sharia law in the area.

Before the Swat agreement was inked, the Pakistani Taliban presented their demands. These included a financial package worth 480 million rupees (US$6 million) for compensation for families that had lost members through death or injury or which had lost property as a result of the operations of the security forces. They also demanded the release of prisoners.

The government accepted all of the demands, but it refused to release those prisoners who were not from Swat. At the top of this list was Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical cleric from the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad who was arrested in July 2007 while fleeing from the mosque after security forces stormed it. The government also refused to release several other militants, including a very important person, who were recently arrested in Islamabad.

The Punjabi militants were clearly upset at having their demands rejected, while the Pashtuns got what they wanted. The attack in Lahore was meant to redress the "injustice".

Ironically, the peace agreement in Swat is itself now at risk.

On Sunday, militants violated the agreement by detaining a few paramilitary Frontier Corps personnel who were later released. The next day they attacked a military convoy and killed a soldier.

In response, the army on Tuesday arrested a few important Taliban commanders in the Swat Valley. Maulana Sufi Mohammand, the main driver behind the peace agreement, then appealed at a press conference to both the Taliban and the security forces to abide by the agreement. Otherwise, he said, he would no longer stand as a guarantor of the deal.

A new phase of militancy
At the time of the United-States-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistani and Taliban groups linked to al-Qaeda had little ability to execute planned and coordinated attacks. At best, they could carry out sectarian assassinations against Shi'ites or plant bombs at religious congregations.

All this changed from 2003 onwards when Arabs and Pakistani militants started regrouping in the South Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan. (See The legacy of Nek Mohammed Asia Times Online, July 20, 2004.)

The attack by the jihadi group Jundullah in 2004 on the then-corps commander Karachi's motorcade could be termed as the militants' first well-planned operation. Although the attack was unsuccessful, the militants opened coordinated fire from several directions and had an exit strategy in place. The only blunder was that a cell phone was dropped at the site, which led to the arrest and destruction of the whole network.

About this time, the militant training camps were closed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir as Islamabad re-orientated as a partner in the US's "war on terror". Several respected commanders, such as Maulana Ilyas Kashmiri and Abdul Jabbar, were arrested, causing much humiliation among the country's former "heroes". At this point, several top fighters joined the Afghan resistance in the Waziristan tribal areas.

These highly trained militants, courtesy of the Pakistani state, brought with them considerable expertise and muscle and they began training local youths. Some of their most successful operations were the attacks on the Kabul Serena Hotel in January 2008 and on a national parade in Kabul in July 2008. A hallmark of these militants is that they are well versed in modern warfare and that they are ruthless in achieving their goals, even at the expense of innocent civilians.

Their attack in Lahore on Tuesday is testimony to this; they are now prepared to take the war theater to urban centers to get their comrades released, and anybody is fair game - from cricketers to high-profile personalities including ministers, diplomats, politicians and other influential people.

The emergence of these new zealots is an ominous development for a country already mired in militancy in its border areas. And things could get a lot worse as Asia Times Online has learned that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani has returned from a visit to Washington committed to a much more pro-active approach against militants.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

kuldeep singh chauhan said...

sir i am eagerly waiting for your analysis on the IAEA exemption and additional protocol... did India finally came out a winner from negotiations?did we concede too much? how was the approach and behavior of our negotiators?has indian diplomacy come of age?.. awaiting your response

Anonymous said...


Investigators see LeT footprints in Lahore attack

By Mubashir Zaidi and Irfan Raza

Friday, 06 Mar, 2009 | 04:41 AM PST |

The authorities have approached Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed to help authorities in tracking down the attackers.

Investigators are zeroing in on the footprints of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to preliminary investigations by the Joint Investigation Team probing Tuesday’s attack on Sri Lankan cricketers at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk.
Sketchy details of the initial probe suggest that a group of headstrong Lashkar activists, who went underground and remained in hiding in Rawalpindi after the crackdown on Lashkar and Jamaatud Dawa in December, had acted on their own and carried out the attack.
Although officials would not confirm the involvement of Lashkar, they categorically ruled out the possibility of involvement of the Indian spy agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as no evidence has been found so far pointing in their direction.
At least eight people, six policemen among them, were killed after 12 gunmen attacked the bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers to Qadhafi Stadium.
The attack has killed hopes of any international sports events in Pakistan for months, if not years, and seriously damaged Pakistan’s reputation to host any international sporting event, including the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
The prime minister’s adviser on interior, Rehman Malik, refused to comment on the investigations when asked.
‘At this moment I can only say that investigations into the Lahore attack are going in the right direction. We have also involved the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) to determine the identity of the attackers,’ he told Dawn.
Interestingly, officials working at Nadra told Dawn that they had no facility to match the sketches with the database. ‘It is a very expensive technology and we do not have it here. So Nadra cannot do anything in this regard,’ a top official of Nadra said.
But asked specifically about the involvement of Lashkar in the Lahore attack, Mr Malik said he could not reveal anything at the moment. ‘The preliminary report will be finalised by Friday. At this moment I can only say that reports regarding the involvement of LeT are speculation,’ he added.
Later he told reporters in Parliament that al Qaeda could be involved in the attack. He also said so far investigations had not yet found any Indian connection.
He told journalists that the involvement of India’s Raw had not been proved so far. But, he added, the final answer could only be given once the investigations were completed.
Mr Malik claimed that investigators had not found any link between the attackers and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a key Pakistani suspect in the Mumbai attacks and the alleged trainer/handler of the suicide squad that wreaked havoc in India’s commercial hub in November last year.
But he refused to share details with media of the arrests made by the law enforcement agencies so far.
The investigators involved in the probe believe that the attackers got their commando training in the camp of Lashkar’s operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi as their modus operandi had similarities with the Mumbai attackers.
Lakhvi was detained by authorities on suspicion of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks. He was picked up from his camp in Muzaffarabad on Dec 10 last year.
Investigators believed that one of the attackers had assured the chief suspect in Mumbai terror attacks that his followers would take revenge against Pakistani authorities for his arrest and subsequent trial.
The authorities have also approached Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who is currently under detention at his Johar Town residence in Lahore, to help authorities in tracking down the attackers.