x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Some gunmen involved in Mumbai carnage still at large

Several militants involved in last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai are still on the run and a countrywide red alert is in force.

KOLKATA // Several militants involved in last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai are still on the run and a countrywide red alert is in force, Indian police reports said yesterday. Indian security forces claim to have killed nine terrorists and captured one in the three-day siege that killed 195 people and has increased diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan.

However, police said yesterday that evidence found in the inflatable boat used by the terrorists showed there was at least 15 attackers involved, prompting fears of a second strike in Mumbai or the surrounding state of Maharastra. "Fifteen blankets, 15 winter jackets and 15 toothbrushes were found among other mostly Pakistani items on the deserted boat making us believe that at least fifteen terrorists landed in Mumbai through the sea route that day," said an Anti Terrorist Squad officer, who did not want to be identified.

"Border and coastal security [on the western front] became very tight within hours after the attack and we think the militants are still hiding in Mumbai or elsewhere in the country, if they have not returned to Pakistan via a third country like Nepal or Bangladesh." Police also said eight other terrorists, who sneaked into Mumbai on a reconnaissance mission several weeks before last week's attacks, are also still at large, meaning 13 suspects are unaccounted for.

A junior police officer from Mumbai's Colaba police station said: "There is a possibility that all 13 of the missing terrorists are now hiding around and could be planning another strike? We know, they are as tough and well-trained as commandos we have to stay alert." India said yesterday it had called Pakistan's envoy and informed him that the attacks were carried out by militants from Pakistan and demanded swift action against those responsible. Indian investigators said the Islamist gunmen had months of commando training in Pakistan.

The fallout prompted a second top politician from the ruling Congress Party to resign, amid growing fury among many Indians at apparent intelligence lapses. The attacks against Mumbai's two best-known luxury hotels and other landmarks in the city of 18 million are a major setback for improving ties between India and Pakistan, both of which are armed with nuclear weapons. India fired the first formal diplomatic salvo yesterday after days of finger-pointing, releasing a foreign ministry statement describing the actions it expects Islamabad to take: "It was conveyed to the Pakistan high commissioner that Pakistan's actions needed to match the sentiments expressed by its leadership that it wishes to have a qualitatively new relationship with India.

"He was informed that the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai was carried out by elements from Pakistan. Government expects that strong action would be taken against those elements, whosoever they may be, responsible for this outrage." The White House said Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, would visit India tomorrow, underscoring the seriousness with which Washington viewed the attacks. "I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and co-operation and that is what we expect [from Pakistan]," Ms Rice told reporters travelling with her to London.

Two senior Indian investigators said on condition of anonymity that evidence from the interrogation of Azam Amir Kasav, the only gunmen of the 10 not killed by commandos, clearly showed that Pakistani militants had a hand in the attack. The clean-shaven, 21-year-old with fluent English was photographed during the attack wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the Versace logo. He has said his team took orders from "their command in Pakistan", police officials said.

The training was organised by the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group, and conducted by a former member of the Pakistani army, a police officer close to the interrogation said on condition of anonymity. "They underwent training in several phases, which included training in handling weapons, bomb making, survival strategies, survival in a marine environment and even dietary habits," another senior officer said.

Lashkar had close links to Pakistan's military spy agency in the past, security experts say, although Islamabad insists it too is fighting the group and other Islamist militants based on its soil. India's interior minister, who was appointed to the post after the attacks, said New Delhi would respond "with determination and resolve" to the threats facing the nation. "This is a threat to the very idea of India, very soul of India," Palaniappan Chidambaram said.

Officials in Islamabad have warned any escalation of tensions would force it to divert troops to the Indian border and away from a US-led anti-militant campaign on the Afghan frontier. @Email:aziz@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse