'Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind Mumbai terror'

Pakistan-based jihadist group's political wing has described Hindus, Jews as main enemies of Islam.

Indian commando takes aim 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Indian commando takes aim 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Suspicions in the devastating Mumbai terror attacks are centering on a Pakistani-based jihadi terror organization whose objectives include destroying India and Israel, and establishing an Islamic caliphate. Indian media and government officials have begun to point fingers at Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic fundamentalist group long seen as a creation of the Pakistani intelligence service to help wage its clandestine war against India in disputed Kashmir. On Sunday, Indian Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said the only gunman captured by police admitted the group was behind the attacks and had intended to hit even more targets. "Lashkar-e-Taiba is behind the terrorist acts in the city," Maria told reporters. "The terrorists were from a hardcore group in the L-e-T." The organization, which is banned in India and Pakistan, has reportedly denied any involvement. Pakistan has also denied involvement. The militant group's political wing has described Hindus and Jews as the main enemies of Islam and India and Israel as the main enemies of Pakistan, according to B. Raman, a former Indian government official, who authored a 2001 article on the secretive group. The group also aims to reestablish an Islamic caliphate from Morocco to Indonesia. Six Israelis were killed in the Chabad House that was attacked and seized by terrorists starting on November 26. Maloy Krishna Dhar, a New Delhi-based author and former joint director of India's intelligence bureau, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that "Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the attack with guidance from the ISI [Inter Services Intelligence - the Pakistani intelligence services]" and assistance from Indian terrorist and drug lord Dawood Ibrahim. Dhar's claims could not be verified by the Post. A Mumbai police spokesman, however, said Sunday that while "a Pakistani connection is clear" as had been stated by government officials, the "Ibrahim connection is not clear." Lashkar-e-Taiba - or Army of the Pure or Righteous - is the armed wing of a Pakistani-based religious organization founded in 1989. During the 1990s, the group received instruction and funding from Pakistan's intelligence agency in exchange for a pledge to target Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir and to train Muslim extremists on Indian soil, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations. The group is also listed as a terrorist organization in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and other countries. It is suspected of being involved in the December 2001 attack on New Delhi's Parliament, the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the February 2007 blast on a train running between India and Pakistan, according to the council's Web site. Meanwhile, the sole surviving gunman from the Mumbai massacre, Azam Amir Kasav, told Indian police that the terrorists had been sent with the specific mission of targeting Israelis at the Chabad House in order to avenge atrocities committed against the Palestinians, The Times of India reported Sunday. "Islamic Jihadis are opposed to Israel's confrontation with the Palestinians and wherever the Jews are, they try to attack them," Dhar added. The Chabad center, he added, was an "easy target," since it was a private building and not well protected. "Many inhabitants, including the rabbi and his family, were living in that house," Dhar said. "Each and every house cannot be given full protection. There were some police patrols, one or two police guards, that's all." He added that civilian police usually only carry batons with them. The group that claimed responsibility for the attacks that rocked India's financial capital call themselves the Deccan Mujahideen - a name that indicates Indian origins. But Dhar argues that the name was "misleading propaganda" to divert attention away from the real culprits. A surviving suspected terrorist who has been caught and arrested in India following the attacks is a resident of the Punjab providence and has admitted that he has undergone Lashkar-e-Taiba organized training in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Dhar said, citing unnamed former colleagues and friends in the police and intelligence departments. "Later on, [the terrorists] were trained in the city of Karachi in naval warfare," Dhar said. "They were directed to demolish the Taj and Oberoi hotels... and they were given a target to kill 5,000 people," he said. The arrested Pakistani terrorist and several others headed for India in a Pakistani vessel and, somewhere in the Indian province of Gujarat, had hijacked an Indian vessel and came to Mumbai, Dhar said. In addition, Dhar said he believed that Dawood Ibrahim, one of the biggest mafia kingpins in the region, who is believed to be based in Karachi, arranged for gangsters in India to assist Lashkar-e-Taiba in carrying out the operations in Mumbai and partially financed them. The US Treasury Department designated the Indian crime lord as a global terrorist in 2003 for "funding attacks by Islamic extremists aimed at destabilizing the Indian government." "Without Ibrahim's help, the ISI and Laskhar-e-Taiba could not carry out such an organized, big mercenary attack on Mumbai city," Dhar said. Jerusalem Post staff and AP contributed to this report.