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LeT's Zarar Shah confesses to involvement in 26\11 attacks

LeT's Zarar Shah confesses to involvement in 26\11 attacks

Author: PTI
Publication: Rediff.com
Date: December 31, 2008
URL: http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/dec/31mumterror-lashkar-commander-zarar-shah-confesses-involvement-in-mumbai-attacks.htm

Top Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Zarar Shah captured in the crackdown on militants earlier this month in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, has confessed the group's involvement in the terror attacks in Mumbai, a media report said on Wednesday.

Shah has also implicated other LeT members, and had broadly confirmed the confession made by the sole captured militant Ajmal Kasab to Indian investigators--that the 10 assailants trained in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and then went by boat from Karachi to Mumbai, the Wall Street Journal reported quoting a senior Pakistani security official.

The paper said Pakistan's own investigationof terror attacks in Mumbai had begun to show substantive links between the LeT and 10 gunmen who took part in the Mumbai mission.

Pakistani security officials were quoted as saying that a top Lashkar commander, Zarar Shah, has admitted a role
in the Mumbai attack during interrogation. The paper quoted a person familiar with investigation as saying that Shah also admitted that the attackers spent at least a few weeks in Karachi, training in urban combat to hone skills they would use in their assault.

The disclosure, it said, could add new international pressure on Pakistan to accept that the attacks, which left 183 dead in India, originated within its borders and to prosecute or extradite the suspects.

That raises difficult and potentially destabilising issues for the country's new civilian government, its military
and the spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence--which is conducting interrogations of militants it once cultivated as partners, the Journal said.

"He is singing," the security official said of Shah.

The admission, the official told the paper, is backed up by US intercepts of a phone call between Shah and one of
the attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the site of a 60-hour confrontation with Indian security forces.

A second person familiar with the investigation was quoted by the Journal as saying that Shah told Pakistani
interrogators that he was one of the key planners of the operation, and that he spoke with the attackers during the
rampage to give them advice and keep them focused.

Shah, the paper said, was picked up along with fellow Lashkar commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi during the military camp raids in PoK.

The probe, the Journal said, also is stress-testing an uncomfortable shift under way at Pakistan's spy agency -- and
the government -- since the election of civilian leadership replacing the military-led regime earlier this year.

Military and intelligence officials, it says, acknowledge they have long seen India as their primary enemy and Islamist extremists such as Lashkar as allies.

But now the ISI is in the midst of being revamped, and its ranks purged of those seen as too soft on Islamic militants.

That revamp and the Mumbai attacks are in turn putting pressure on the civilian leadership, which risks a backlash
among the population -- and among elements of ISI and the military -- if it is too accommodating to India.

"Don't fight the ISI. It can make or break any regime in Pakistan," retired General Mirza Aslam Beg, a former army chief, was quoted as saying.

The delicate politics of the Mumbai investigation, the Journal said, have given the spy agency renewed sway just when the government was trying to limit its influence. A Western diplomat told the paper that the question now is what Pakistan will do with the evidence it is developing.

The big fear in the West and India is a repeat of what happened after a 2001 attack on India's parliament, which led to the ban on Lashkar.

Top militant leaders were arrested only to be released months later, the Journal noted. Lashkar and other groups
continued to operate openly, even though formal ISI links were scaled back or closed, the diplomat was quoted as saying.

"They've got the guys. They have the confessions. What do they do now?" the diplomat said. "We need to see that this is more than a show. We want to see the entire infrastructure of terror dismantled. There needs to be real prosecutions this time."

A spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Farhatullah Babar, was quoted as saying on Tuesday that he wasn't aware of the Pakistani investigation yet producing any links between Lashkar militants and the Mumbai attacks.

"The Interior Ministry has already stated that the government of Pakistan has not been furnished with any evidence," he said.

The Pakistani security official, it said, cautioned that the investigation is still in early stages and a "more full picture" could emerge once India decides to share more information.

Pakistani authorities didn't have evidence that LeT was involved in the attacks before the militants' arrest in
PoK, the security official claimed. They were captured based only on initial guidance from US and British authorities.

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