Question of Foreign Role Fills Air as Gunfire Quiets in Mumbai

It began with scattered gunshots in a crowded train station on a weekday evening, at about 9:20 p.m. Minutes later it was more gunshots, at other locations, and then explosions -- at two luxury hotels, a chic cafe popular with foreigners, a hospital, a Jewish center.

By dawn on Saturday, after 60 hours of gunfire, daring hostage rescues and moments of eerily suspended action, Indian forces had brought the terror attack in Mumbai to an end, cornering what they say were the final three assailants in one of the hotels, the Taj Mahal, and shooting them dead.

As the smoke cleared, the death toll, which was expected to climb after searches of the two hotels, stood at 195, including 18 foreigners, six of them Americans. An estimated 295 people were wounded in the violence, which played out in highly coordinated attacks at 10 sites around the financial and tourist capital.

Rushing to fill the sudden silence was speculation, on the part of citizens and, more guardedly, of some Indian government officials, of a possible foreign role in the assault -- speculation fueled by the government's announcement that the one fighter to be captured was a Pakistani national named Mohammad Ajmal Qasam.

"We are interrogating him," Maharshta state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told reporters.

Indian security sources said today that a total of 10 fighters of unknown nationality had executed the Mumbai attacks, the deadliest in the country since a series of bombings in 1993 killed 257. The other nine assailants were killed in the fighting.

Leaders around the world called for a full investigation of the attacks before any conclusions were drawn about the motivation, funding or allegiance of the assailants. The group that claimed responsibility for the assault, the Deccan Mujahideen, was previously unknown.

Pakistan has denied any role in the attack, despite implications to the contrary on the part of some Indian officials, including Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who told reporters Friday that evidence indicated "some elements in Pakistan are responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks."

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani insisted his country was not involved.

Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview with "Good Morning America" that he took Gilani at his word.

"This was not something I would expect that, in any way, was authorized by the Pakistani government," Haas said. "But a lot goes on in Pakistan that's out of the control of this government. It seems to be that sort of a case.

"India, then, it doesn't make sense to retaliate against Pakistan. The government, again, was probably not behind it. Though, there will be a lot of pressure in India to do so. This is probably the most dangerous bilateral relationship in the world. Between India and Pakistan. Two nuclear powers who basically have an extremely limited relationship, if that. For the United States, it's bad news."

U.S. President George W. Bush spoke on the crisis from the south lawn of the White House shortly after noon.

"The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent," Bush said. "But terror will not have the final word. The people of India are resilient. The people of India are strong."

The president said he had been closely monitoring developments in India.

"We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice and sustains its democratic way of life," he said.

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