India summons Pakistan's ambassador
MUMBAI // India's foreign ministry today summoned Pakistan's ambassador to lodge a formal protest over the Mumbai attacks, the Press Trust of India said. In New Delhi's first formal complaint to Islamabad, the Pakistani high commissioner Shahid Malik was handed a message concerning his country's alleged "failure to curb terrorism emanating from its soil". India's foreign ministry has said investigations have shown that all the militants involved in the Mumbai attacks were Pakistani nationals. Pakistan's government has denied it was in any way linked to the atrocities. India handed over the written protest just hours after New Delhi warned the carnage in Mumbai was a major setback for the slow-moving peace process launched by the South Asian neighbours in 2004. "It is an evolving situation, but what has happened is a grave setback to the process of normalisation of relations and the confidence-building measures with Pakistan," the minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma said. "These gunmen were all from Pakistan. We are talking about elements in Pakistan." Earlier today, the Maharashtra state chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, a member of the ruling Congress party in India, said he had offered to resign over the attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 172 people. "I have offered to resign," Mr Deshmukh told reporters, adding he was waiting for party leaders to make a final decision. The move comes one day after two high-profile resignations in the Indian government ? Shivraj Patil, the Indian home minister, and MK Narayanan, the national security adviser ? amid growing criticism of the government's failure to prevent the attack.
Authorities finished removing bodies from the bullet and grenade-scarred Taj Mahal hotel today, the final site of the Mumbai siege to be cleared, as schools and businesses reopened and commuters returned to work. Security forces had been scouring the 565-room hotel for traps and bodies, and declared the landmark building cleared two days after they killed the last three militants holed up inside following a three-day rampage in India's financial centre.
"We were apprehensive about more bodies being found. But this is not likely - all rooms in the Taj have been opened and checked," said the Maharashtra state government spokesman Bhushan Gagrani. The army had already cleared other sites, including the five-star Oberoi hotel and the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group. This morning, parents dropped their children off at school and many shopkeepers opened their doors for the first time since the attacks began.
"I think this is the first Monday I am glad to be coming to work," said Donica Trivedi, 23, an employee of a public relations agency. Others were uneasy. "I feel totally insecure," said Rajendra Shah, 55, an insurance agent. "I'm very scared, but what can you do? I must go to work." The only gunman captured after the attacks said he belonged to a Pakistani militant group with links to the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, a senior police officer said. He was among 10 who paralysed the city in the attack, which also wounded 239 people and revealed the weakness of India's security apparatus.
The announcement blaming militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba threatened to escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. However, Indian officials have been cautious about accusing Pakistan's government of complicity. The foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash denied a news reports that India was preparing to end a 2003 ceasefire with Pakistan. An intelligence official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said there was no unusual mobilisation of troops along the India-Pakistan border. Lashkar, long seen as a creation of the Pakistani intelligence service to help fight India in disputed Kashmir, was banned in Pakistan in 2002 under pressure from the US, a year after Washington and Britain listed it a terrorist group. It is since believed to have emerged under another name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though that group has denied links to the Mumbai attack.
In the US, George W Bush dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to New Delhi in support of India. As more details of the response to the attack emerged, a picture formed of woefully unprepared security forces. "These guys could do it next week again in Mumbai and our responses would be exactly the same," said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management and who has close ties to India's police and intelligence.
The prime minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency. The Joint Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said the only known surviving gunman, Ajmal Qasab, told police he was trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistan. Pakistani President Asif Zardari's spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, dismissed the claim, saying Islamabad has "demanded evidence of the complicity of any Pakistani group" but has received none.
In the first wave of the attacks, two young gunmen armed with assault rifles blithely ignored more than 60 police officers patrolling the city's main train station and sprayed bullets into the crowd. Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or antiquated rifles. "They are not trained to respond to major attacks," he said. The gunmen continued their rampage outside the station. They eventually ambushed a police van, killed five officers inside - including the city's counterterrorism chief - and hijacked the vehicle as two wounded officers lay bleeding in the back seat.
"The way Mumbai police handled the situation, they were not combat ready," said Jimmy Katrak, a security consultant. "You don't need the Indian army to neutralise eight to nine people." With no SWAT team in the city of 18 million, authorities called in the only unit in the country trained to deal with such crises. But the National Security Guards, which largely devotes its resources to protecting top officials, is based outside of New Delhi and it took the commandos nearly 10 hours to reach the scene. That gave the gunmen time to consolidate control over two luxury hotels and the Jewish centre, Mr Sahni said. Mr Singh promised to expand the commando force and set up new bases for it around the country.
Updated: December 1, 2008 04:00 AM