AT the weekend, media reports based on the interrogation of apparently the only terrorist to be captured alive in Mumbai, named as Azam Amir Kasab, evidently confirmed what many analysts – and most Indians – had suspected from the outset: a clear and direct Pakistan connection in the horrendous attacks that brought mayhem to India’s largest metropolis late last Wednesday. Others initially assumed that the suspicion was a kneejerk reaction based more on experience than on evidence. That may have been so, but although a plethora of questions remain to be answered, many of the doubts have been laid to rest.
The reports about Kasab’s revelations relied on leaks rather than any official statement, but the beans he is said to have spilled are soaked in plausibility. They include the information that he and three other young men of his ilk underwent extended training at a Lashkar-i-Tayyaba camp in Muzaffarabad, whereafter they met up with six other programmed murderers in
A chartered boat, the MV Alpha, was to convey them to their target site, but in a panic prompted by Indian naval patrols, they hijacked an Indian fishing boat and forced the captain to navigate it to within four nautical miles of the Mumbai shoreline. Thereafter their mode of transport consisted of motorized rubber dinghies. By then it was too late for the fishing boat’s crew to sound the alarm, as their throats had been slit. They were seen coming ashore not far from one of their prime targets, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, a landmark that has graced Bombay – as many people still prefer to call the city – for 105 years.
Thereafter the young men with mass murder on their mind apparently split into five groups of two, carrying backpacks full of ammunition, and went about their deadly business. Kasab and a colleague were assigned to the iconic VT, or Victoria Terminus. Others headed for the Taj, the Oberoi, Leopold’s Cafe and an Orthodox Jewish centre at Nariman House. Apart from VT, the attack sites appear to have been chosen because they are frequented by tourists and the Indian elite – in contrast to previous attacks in Mumbai, which were more indiscriminate. However, notwithstanding anecdotal information about the terrorists seeking out American and British passport holders, about 90 per cent of the 200 or so victims were Indian. There were also plenty of random killings, not just in the hotels but on the streets.
What’s not terribly clear, however, is why the gunmen took hostages. Scattered reports during the stand-off referred to demands for the release for Islamist militants imprisoned in
Chances are that, at least for a while, tourists and other foreigners will think twice before booking their passage to
It is even more important for
Although the ISI is believed to have been associated in the past with groups such as Lashkar-i-Tayyaba and Jaish-i-Muhammad, primarily as a means of making trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, and its (possibly rogue) operatives were accused by US agencies earlier this year of leaving their fingerprints on a bomb attack against the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people, there has thus far been no evidence of its involvement in the Mumbai outrages. It must be hoped that appearances, in this instance, are not deceptive. On the other hand,
If Zardari’s interest in improving relations with
Without being specific, the president has already acknowledged the problem posed by “non-state actors”. They are an obvious impediment to his expressed wish for visa-free travel between the neighbouring states. But if he lacks the authority to put them out of action, it takes the wind out of lofty pledges about a no-first-strike policy and the (otherwise utterly laudable) determination to pursue a nuclear-free zone in
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