Washington: December 8, 2008 – IR Summary/NYT -The American Intelligence and other counter agencies on terrorism has categorically said that Lashar-e-Taiba, Pakistan based military faction, alleged to have attacked Mumbai on 26 November, had an official backing of Pakistan Govt. and this group is gaining more and more recognition day by day.
The main evidence that they consider is that the Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence of Pakistan (ISI) had not only shared intelligence with Lashkar-e-Taiba but had also provided protection cover to them for the Mumbai operation, and the American Intelligence Agency believe there is a main liaison with the spy service and the attacking group.
As a result of the assault on Mumbai, India’s financial hub, American counterterrorism and military officials say they are reassessing their view of Lashkar and believe it to be more capable and a greater threat than they had previously recognized.
“People have to go back and re-look at all the connections,” said one American counterterrorism official, who was among several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still progressing.
Pakistani connection is confirmed from several other pieces of solid evidence that Pakistan ISI had official connection with the Mumbai attack on November 26th, in which 183 persons including 9 terrorists were killed. A Pakistani official confirmed on Sunday that security forces had initiated an operation against at least one Lashkar camp, it was revealed by a Senior Officer of Islamabad, Pakistan who told the Associated Press in anonymity.
Pakistani troops had seized a former Lashkar camp, in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, that is now used by the group’s charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa. “More than 12 people” were arrested, The Associated Press said.
The official who spoke to The New York Times gave no details about the operation he confirmed, Pakistan’s first known response against the group implicated in Mumbai.
“The government of Pakistan has always said it would act on any evidence that is presented to us,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details about security operations. “We will make sure that nobody uses Pakistani territory to carry out militant activity.”
While Al Qaeda has provided financing and other support to Lashkar in the past, their links today remain murky. Senior Qaeda figures have used Lashkar safe houses as hide-outs, but Lashkar has not merged its operations with Al Qaeda or adopted the Qaeda brand, as did an Algerian terrorist group that changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, American officials said.
Unlike Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, who have been forced to retreat to mountain redoubts in western Pakistan’s tribal areas, Lashkar commanders have been able to operate more or less in the open, behind the public face of a popular charity, with the implicit support of official Pakistani patrons, American officials said.
American and Indian officials believe that one senior Lashkar commander in particular, Zarrar Shah, is one of the group’s primary liaisons to the ISI. Investigators in India are also examining whether Mr. Shah, a communications specialist, helped plan and carry out the attacks in Mumbai. “He’s a central character in this plot,” an American official said.
For years, American intelligence analysts have described Lashkar as a group with deadly, yet limited, ambitions in South Asia. But terrorism experts said it clearly had been inspired by the success of Al Qaeda in rallying supporters for a global jihad.
“This is a group that years ago evolved from having a local and parochial agenda and bought into Al Qaeda’s vision,” said Bruce Hoffman, a professor and terrorism expert at Georgetown University who has followed Lashkar closely for several years.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means “army of the pure,” was founded more than 20 years ago with the help of Pakistani intelligence officers as a proxy force to challenge Indian control of Muslim-dominated Kashmir. More