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Pakistani spies tied to Mumbai siege, India says

Information from convicted American cited

By Ravi Nessman and Ashok Sharma
Associated Press / October 20, 2010

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NEW DELHI — An American convicted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks said Pakistan’s main spy agency was deeply involved in planning that strike, monitoring the preparations and providing funding and advice to the attackers, according to an Indian government summary of his interrogation.

The report gives the strongest indication of the involvement of Pakistani authorities in the attack, which killed 166 people, paralyzed India’s business capital, and froze peace efforts between Pakistan and India.

Under questioning by Indian officials, David Headley painted a detailed picture of how intertwined Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, was with the Lashkar-e-Taiba group accused of carrying out the attack, according to the report.

Headley, 50, from Chicago, was born Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and an American mother. In March, he pleaded guilty in US federal court to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attack as well as preparing for violence in Denmark.

According to the report, Headley said the Pakistani spy agency provided individual handlers, many of them senior officers, for all the top members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and gave them direction and money to carry out reconnaissance of prospective targets.

The group’s chief military commander, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, was close to the director general of the spy agency, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the report said.

“According to Headley, every big action of LeT is done in close coordination with ISI,’’ the report said, using a common abbreviation for Lashkar-e-Taiba.

A senior intelligence official in Pakistan said the allegations in the Indian report were baseless. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media on the record.

“These are allegations we’ve heard before,’’ Mark Toner, US State Department spokesman, told reporters in Washington. “We believe the government of Pakistan has pledged its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. And we fully expect that these pledges of cooperation are going to be carried out.’’

“Pakistan itself has been, obviously, greatly touched by extremist violence, and it is also in an existential struggle with these groups. So we believe Pakistan understands the threat and is committed to working cooperatively,’’ Toner said.

ISI has long been suspected of links to terror groups. The spy agency is believed to have nurtured Lashkar-e-Taiba to attack Indian security forces in disputed Kashmir. US officials have accused ISI of working with the Taliban to coordinate attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In July, India’s home secretary, G.K. Pillai, caused a ruckus ahead of high-level India-Pakistan talks when he accused the spy agency of orchestrating the Mumbai attacks. Pillai cited Headley as the source of the information.

According to the report on the interrogation, which was marked secret and obtained by the Associated Press late Monday, Headley said the spy agency was having problems with militant groups in Pakistan, because fighters based in Kashmir were beginning to join Taliban groups fighting along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Launching a huge attack on India would prevent further defections from these groups by raising their morale and would move the “theater of violence’’ from Pakistan to India, the report said.

In Chicago where he is being held, Headley spoke to Indian investigators for 34 hours in June about the planning behind the 60-hour siege by 10 Pakistani militants on two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, and a busy train station.

Headley described for Indian officials a Lashkar-e-Taiba organization that was filled with former Pakistani Army officers and veterans from the conflicts with India over Kashmir, the report said.

At one Lashkar camp, Headley was trained by a Pakistani Army instructor, he said, according to the report.

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