Pakistanis Crack Down, Nab Accused Mumbai Plotter

Twelve days after an attack by Pakistani gunmen on the Indian city of Mumbai killed more than 170 people, Pakistan launched raids across the country today targeting the group that India and the United States blames for the attacks.

During one raid on a camp in Pakistani Kashmir, "intelligence-led" forces arrested Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, an operational commander for Lashkar-e-Taiba and one of the alleged ringleaders of the Mumbai attack, government officials tell ABC News.

The crackdown -- which extends from Pakistani Kashmir to the Malakand district of the Northwest Frontier, according to government officials -- comes after considerable pressure from both the United States and India to crack down on terrorists they hold responsible for what has been widely described in India as its 9/11.

The crackdown also came one week after a caller from inside India threatened to attack the terrorist camps if Pakistan itself did not crack down on them. Later described as a "hoax" call by India's foreign minister, Pakistanis maintain it was legitimate and admit they raised their military alert level because of it.

Today's actions are the first concerted effort by Pakistan to respond to the Mumbai attacks, and were twinned with diplomatic overtures.

After a meeting in Islamabad between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal, the Pakistani foreign ministry released a statement declaring that Pakistan "had initiated investigations on its own into the allegations that have surfaced concerning involvement of any individual or entity in Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks."

The statement also proposed that a "high-level delegation" visit New Delhi to share information and evidence.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the raids "positive steps" and said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to brief her. Just 24 earlier, Rice said on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" that "this is a time when Pakistan must act."

McCormack also made clear that the United States believes Pakistan understands what is expected of it.

"It's also incumbent upon the Pakistani government to act to prevent any future terrorist attacks, to break up those networks that may be responsible for perpetrating acts of violent extremism," he said. "The Pakistani government understands this."

India and Pakistan seem to have come a long way from last weekend, following what Pakistani officials have described as an aggressive call made by India's foreign minister on the night of Nov. 28.

Over the next two days, Pakistani officials spoke to the press about "an aggressive phone call" from India and reportedly put their air force on high alert. And a senior intelligence official went so far as to say that troops stationed along the western border with Afghanistan -- who are fighting the Taliban and have been credited by American commanders as saving U.S. lives -- could be shifted to the Indian border.

While Pakistani officials continue to insist that the call was verified as coming from Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Indian officials have pointed out that communication to Zardari would not have been made by the external affairs minister directly.

Mukherjee himself has denied making the call.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...