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As Thousands Protest Indian Government, Rice Tells Pakistan to Aid Attacks Probe

BY Admin  December 3, 2008 at 3:00 PM EDT

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; file photo

In a joint news conference with Rice in New Delhi, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, “there is no doubt the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were perpetrated by individuals who came from Pakistan and whose controllers are in Pakistan.”

Rice traveled to the region as part of a U.S. effort to ease tensions after a three-day terrorist attack killed more than 170 people in India’s financial capital. She said the United States expects all
“responsible governments” to help with the investigation and “Pakistan has a special responsibility to do so and to do so transparently, urgently and fully.”

“The responsibility of the Pakistani government should be one of cooperation and of action,” she said.

Mukherjee vowed to bring the militant leaders to justice.

“The government of India is determined to act decisively to protect Indian territorial integrity and the right of our citizens to a peaceful life with all the means at our disposal,” he said,
according to the Associated Press.

Rice assured Mukherjee: “We are going to work very closely with you in any way you can to try to get to the bottom of what happened and then help you act on that.”

She was asked at one point if the United States believes the al-Qaida was involved.

“Let me be very clear: We are not saying al-Qaida is the perpetrator here,” she replied. ” … There are elements of this – the sophistication of it – that remind us that these extremists … that they are perhaps learning from each other, they move in the same circles. But clearly the sophistication of the attack was what I was addressing.”

Some 20,000 people took to the streets to protest against India’s political leaders and police. The vast crowd included accountants in business suits, Muslim housewives in headscarves and long robes, students in tank-tops and shopkeepers. Many said they had never taken part in a public demonstration before.

Several protesters said corruption — long viewed here with resigned apathy — allowed repeated attacks to take place, accusing police and politicians of being more interested in collecting bribes than doing their jobs, the Agence France-Presse reported.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that FBI agents are assisting Indian police to gather evidence about the attacks.

“The FBI is looking into any evidence it can get,” Mukasey told reporters at the Justice Department, according to Reuters. Other U.S. officials have said the FBI is part of a team investigating
the attacks.

Mukasey said he believes the United States has jurisdiction in cases of violence against Americans in connection with acts of terrorism. Six Americans were killed in the attacks at two luxury hotels and other landmarks.

Mukasey said he did not yet have enough details to say whether any charges eventually would be brought in the United States.

Also on Wednesday, police found explosives hidden in a bag in Mumbai’s main train station, which they said were left over from last week’s attacks.

While searching 150 bags at the station, police found one that looked suspicious and called the bomb squad. They found two bombs of 8.8 pounds each inside and defused them, Assistant Commissioner of Police Bapu Domre said.

The news comes as Indian authorities face a growing wave of criticism about intelligence failures and bungled security that allowed 10 gunmen to terrorize India’s largest city for 60 hours. It was immediately clear why the bombs hadn’t been found earlier.

Authorities reopened Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, a main hub of Mumbai’s public transit, and declared it safe Thursday morning, hours after the gunmen sprayed it with gunfire in one of their first attacks.

Pakistan has condemned the assault, denied any involvement by state agencies and vowed to work with India in the investigation.

Nevertheless, the attack has sparked fears that the nuclear-armed neighbors could slide toward a fourth war since independence from Britain in 1947 unless cool heads prevail. A confrontation would undermine U.S.-led efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan and defeat al-Qaida.

Pakistan rejects suggestions its security agencies support militants fighting Indian forces in disputed Kashmir. They did back Kashmiri militants through the 1990s but began to rein them in after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

India will not respond to attacks in Mumbai by sending troops to the border with Pakistan, but will instead mobilize global pressure for its neighbor to act decisively against Islamist militants,
analysts told Reuters. The military strategy was tried in 2001 and 2002 after an attack on India’s parliament, but achieved little.

The crucial difference this time is that India is dealing with a civilian, democratically elected government in Islamabad — a more receptive leadership that appears to lack full control over a much more hostile, hawkish military establishment.

Military confrontation, however tempting as Indian elections loom ever closer, would only empower the hawks across the border.

“It is simply not on the table,” Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor of the Hindu newspaper said.

“If India were to take any of the military measures some armchair analysts want, that would almost certainly play into the hands of the military establishment in Pakistan.”

It would also have played into the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, by forcing Pakistan to withdraw troops from its tribal areas and western border.

Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Rice suggested that the U.S. is especially alarmed by the careful targeting and efficiency displayed in the Mumbai attacks and said “this is a different
situation.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew in for talks with Pakistan’s 8-month-old civilian government and military commanders earlier on Wednesday, as part of U.S. diplomatic efforts to defuse tension.

Mullen urged Pakistani officials to “investigate aggressively any and all possible ties to groups based in Pakistan”, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that U.S. and British citizens were the targets of the violent siege in Mumbai last week, although most of those killed in India’s financial capital were from India.

The same group that carried out last week’s attack is believed to be behind the 2006 Mumbai train bombings that killed more than 200, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said Tuesday during a speech at Harvard University.

McConnell did not identify the group by name. However, the Indian government has attributed the 2006 attack to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist group based in Kashmir, and the Students
Islamic Movement of India.

McConnell is the first U.S. official to publicly identify Lashkar as the possible perpetrator. Earlier Tuesday, a senior State Department official told reporters only that evidence suggests that the brutal, prolonged attack had some roots in Pakistan.