By Arun Kumar
Washington, Sep 30 (IANS) Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based group widely believed to be behind the Mumbai terror attacks, remains largely intact and determined to strike India again, The New York Times has reported citing current and former members of the group and intelligence officials.
Despite pledges from Pakistan to dismantle militant groups operating on its soil, and the arrest of a handful of operatives, Lashkar has persisted, even flourished, since 10 recruits killed 163 people in a rampage through Mumbai last November, the influential US daily said in a report from Karachi.
Indian and Pakistani dossiers on the Mumbai investigations, copies of which the Times said were obtained by it, offer a detailed picture of the operations of a Lashkar network that spans Pakistan. It included four houses and two training camps in Karachi that were used to prepare the 26/11 attacks.
Among the organizers, the Pakistani document says, was Hammad Amin Sadiq, a homeopathic pharmacist, who arranged bank accounts and secured supplies. He and six others begin their formal trial on Saturday in Pakistan, though Indian authorities say the prosecution stops well short of top Lashkar leaders.
Indeed, Lashkar's broader network endures, and can be mobilised quickly for elaborate attacks with relatively few resources, the daily said citing a dozen current and former Lashkar militants and intelligence officials from the United States, Europe, India and Pakistan.
By all accounts Lashkar's network, though dormant, remains alive, and the possibility that it could strike India again makes Lashkar a wild card in one of the most volatile regions of the world, the Times said.
Even as new details emerge about the Mumbai attacks, senior American military, intelligence and counter-terrorism officials cited by the US daily express grim certainty that Lashkar is plotting new attacks. The United States warned Indian officials earlier this year about a Mumbai-style attack by Lashkar against multiple sites in India, according to a senior Defence Department official and a senior American counter-terrorism official cited by the Times.
The daily quoted the counter-terrorism official as saying the information, gleaned from electronic intercepts and other sources, was not specific and apparently did not result in any arrests. But it was significant enough for American officials to alert their Indian counterparts.
"There were indications of possible terrorist activity in the run-up to the Indian elections," in May, "and that information was shared promptly with Indian officials," the unnamed counter-terrorism official was quoted as saying.
Pakistani officials, however, say they have been kept in the dark, the Times said. "We heard that the Americans have warned the Indians that something in Mumbai might happen, but no one informed us," a senior Pakistani intelligence official was cited saying.
"We do fear that if something like Mumbai happens in India again, there might be a military reaction from the Indian side and it could trigger into a war," a Pakistani official said.
"Right now we cannot guarantee that it will not happen again, because we do not have any control over it."