ISLAMABAD: Pakistan yesterday admitted for the first time that last year’s Mumbai attacks were launched from its soil and partly hatched there. Interior Ministry adviser Rehman Malik told a news conference here that most of the suspects, including one described as the main operator, had been arrested. He said six suspects were in custody and two had been identified but were still at large.
But he reiterated that authorities needed more evidence from New Delhi to secure convictions.
India’s Foreign Ministry called Pakistan’s announcement “a positive development” and said it would consider Islamabad’s request for further information.
Malik said investigators had traced a boat engine used by the attackers to sail from Pakistan to India and busted two hide-outs of the suspects near Karachi. Other leads pointed to Europe and the United States, and Malik said Pakistan would ask the FBI for help.
“I want to assure the international community, I want to assure all those who have been victims of terrorism that we mean business,” Malik said, waving a copy of Pakistan’s initial findings at reporters.
Malik said criminal cases had been opened against eight suspects on charges of “abetting, conspiracy and facilitation” of a terrorist act. The six in custody included Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, both Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders named by India as the masterminds of the attack, and a person who sent an e-mail claiming responsibility for the attacks.
Tracing telephone calls and bank transfers had led to the capture of a key figure in the conspiracy, Hammad Amin Sadiq. “He was basically the main operator,” Malik said, adding that his interrogation led to the raid on the two hide-outs.
“They (terrorists) had some kind of training before they went into the ocean,” he said, saying they had sailed from Karachi. “Some of the accused who have been arrested, they have given us the full rundown.”
Malik said the breakthrough in the investigation resulted from tracing the fishing vessel “Al-Fauz” used by the militants, purchases of equipment like life jackets and the engine for the rubber dinghy in which the militants came ashore in Mumbai. Al-Fauz was later renamed “Mashaallah”. One of those arrested, identified as Javed Iqbal, was lured back to Pakistan from the Spanish city of Barcelona, Malik said. Investigators had also discovered that some funds transferred from Italy and Spain were used to finance the attack, and Austrian telephone SIM cards were used. The official spoke of a link, possibly an Internet domain, to Houston in the United States.
Malik said investigators had been unable to confirm the identities of the nine gunmen killed in the attack, though Pakistan has confirmed Mohammad Ajmal Qasab, the gunman caught alive, was a Pakistani.