NEW DELHI -- Indian police said yesterday they had made a major breakthrough in the investigation of the three bombings in New Delhi last month that killed 60 people, arresting a Kashmiri militant leader they said planned and funded the attacks.
Tariq Ahmad Dar, a key member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant group, was arrested in the Indian Kashmir city of Srinagar on Thursday and brought to New Delhi for questioning, Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul said.
Dar has not been formally charged, but police obtained court permission to detain him for 14 days for further investigation to help catch at least four other suspects, including those who planted the bombs, Paul said.
''The identity of the bombers is more or less confirmed, and we are searching for them," he said, adding that two are from Kashmir and the others are ''foreign nationals."
Paul said it was clear from the investigation and Dar's interrogation that Laskhar was behind the three near-simultaneous Oct. 29 bombings in crowded markets on the eve of a major Hindu festival, when thousands of people were doing last-minute shopping. In addition to the 60 dead, more than 200 people were injured.
Paul said Dar is thought to be the ''financier, coordinator, spokesperson, and front man" of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the most prominent militant group in Kashmir. He is alleged to have been in New Delhi between Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 to scout the sites where the bombs, made of RDX, were to be planted.
Dar works as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company in Srinagar but had received a deposit in his bank account of nearly $11,000 from abroad a few days before the bombings, Paul said.
The authorities' assertion that the bombings were the handiwork of Lashkar -- until now only hinted at -- is likely to bolster Indian complaints that Pakistan is doing little to control Kashmiri militant groups based in its territory.
Also yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India said ''indications do suggest external linkages" in the bombings.
They occurred at a time that India and Pakistan were making significant progress in their peace efforts to end nearly six decades of enmity, largely concerning the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is unevenly divided between the two.
India holds the bigger portion, where it is trying to control an Islamic separatist insurgency that has left about 60,000 people dead since 1989. Militant groups such as Laskhar want either a Kashmiri merger with Pakistan or total independence.
Singh said ''there has been a trust deficit" in the India-Pakistan relationship. ''It is our obligation to convert that deficit into a surplus," he said, adding that the countries have no choice but to make peace.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan said yesterday that peace talks with India were making progress, but core issues such as Kashmir remain contested.
''We are going step-by-step in confidence-building measures [with India]," Aziz said. Both prime ministers spoke in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where they were attending a regional summit.