x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pakistan charges seven with Mumbai attacks

A Pakistani court charges seven suspects in connection with the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people last year.

Indian Army soldiers take their positions outside the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on November 28 last year.
Indian Army soldiers take their positions outside the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on November 28 last year.

A Pakistani court today charged seven suspects in connection with the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people last year. The men were indicted at the court in a high security prison in the city of Rawalpindi on the eve of the first anniversary of India's worst militant attacks, which dramatically soured relations with rival India. All those in the dock pleaded not guilty to the charges. The seven people Pakistan arrested over the November 26-29 siege on India's financial capital included the alleged mastermind of the operation, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and alleged Lashkar-i-Taiba (LiT) operative Zarar Shah.

"All seven of them have been indicted, including Lakhvi. The accused pleaded not guilty as the evidence does not support the charges," defence lawyer Shahbaz Rajput said. "They have been indicted under the anti-terrorism act and the Pakistani penal code," saidMr Rajput, without elaborating. India and Washington blamed the deadly Mumbai rampage on Pakistan's banned militant group LiT. The attacks stalled a fragile four-year peace process between the two nuclear-armed south Asian rivals.

Today's indictments come a week after India handed Pakistan more information about the attacks, which New Delhi blamed Pakistani "official agencies" for abetting. Islamabad flatly denies such charges. Court proceedings have taken place behind closed doors with journalists barred from the hearings and defence lawyers leaking only small details. "We will defend them. The next hearing is December 5," said Mr Rajput.

New Delhi has been pressuring Islamabad to speed up an investigation of Pakistani militants blamed for the 60-hour siege that saw 10 heavily armed gunmen target luxury hotels, Mumbai's main railway station, a restaurant and a Jewish centre. Repeating India's stance, the junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor told parliament that Pakistan had failed to provide the "necessary co-operation in bringing the perpetrators of what happened last year to justice".

According to news agency Press Trust of India, the latest information handed to Pakistan included statements of key witnesses, including a magistrate and FBI officials, from the trial of the lone gunman to survive the attacks. The gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, has confessed to his involvement in the attacks in a dramatic announcement to a court in Mumbai. The two countries, which gained independence from British rule and split in the 1947 partition, have fought three wars.

* AFP