Britain to boost antiterror help for Pakistan
Tries to bolster cooperation of nuclear rivals
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain pledged more counterterrorism help to Pakistan yesterday, disclosing that three-quarters of terror plots investigated in Britain are traced to Al Qaeda supporters in the country.
Brown traveled to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan over the weekend to visit British troops and bolster cooperation between India and Pakistan following the deadly Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people.
But his strongest message was delivered to Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, died last year in an attack launched by extremists.
Zardari faces a daunting challenge of tackling poverty and extremism in Pakistan as he tries to shore up support in the tribal regions and within his own government. Bhutto repeatedly alleged that Pakistan's security services had longstanding ties to extremist elements.
"The time has come for action and not words, and I want to help Pakistan and other countries root out terrorism," Brown told reporters at a joint news conference with Zardari.
Britain would offer Pakistan counterterrorism equipment for detecting bombs and explosives at airports. It would also contribute $9 million to lure youths away from extremist activities by offering them educational materials and programs.
Brown discussed similar assistance with India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, earlier yesterday, including a better system for sharing intelligence.
Although British and American intelligence agencies helped thwart a trans-Atlantic airliner attack in 2006 - a plot that had links to Pakistan - fewer success stories have been attributed to intelligence information out of Pakistan or India.
The nuclear rivals fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947 - two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, whose status has emerged as a recurrent theme in the radicalization of young British Muslims.
Despite a peace process that began in 2004, tensions remain high and intelligence sharing has been limited.
India has blamed the Mumbai attacks on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamic group, straining relations even further.
Brown echoed the assertion, saying the group has long been on Britain's radar.
Abdullah Ghaznavi, Lashkar's chief spokesman, denied the allegation, saying his group targets Indian defense forces and installations to force India out of Kashmir.
"We reject the claim of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and urge him to independently investigate this matter instead of relying on false and fabricated evidence provided by India," Ghaznavi said during a telephone interview yesterday.
"This is a jihad and it will continue," he added.
Ghaznavi also said his group has "no direct or indirect links" with the Taliban or Al Qaeda. "We neither finance them nor support them," he said.
Brown said there was a "chain of terror" emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I told President Zardari that three-fourths of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities have links to Al Qaeda in Pakistan," he said.
Britain has a large South Asian population. Most of its some 2 million Muslims are of Pakistani or Kashmiri origin.
The British suicide bombers who killed 52 London commuters in 2005 had family links to Pakistan, and Indian-born Dhiren Barot was jailed in Britain in 2006 over plots to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, other US financial targets, and landmark London hotels.
Barot, who was raised in the United Kingdom and is regarded by British intelligence as a key Al Qaeda figure, traveled to Kashmir in 1995 to fight Indian forces.
Pakistan has also suffered terror attacks recently. Some 54 people were killed in September when a truck bomb exploded, gutting a hotel in Islamabad.
"All of us suffer when terrorists are active and are able to impose their will," Brown said.