Pakistani investigators find Mumbai link: report


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani investigators have unearthed substantive links between the gunmen who attacked Mumbai in November and a banned Pakistani Islamist militant group, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ten gunmen killed 179 people in the attack on India's financial hub that India has blamed on the Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group.

The group was set up by Pakistani security agencies in the late 1980s to fight Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region but was banned in 2002, after Pakistan had signed up to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

The Wall Street Journal said in an online report on Wednesday at least one top LeT leader, Zarar Shah, captured in a raid early this month in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, had confessed to the group's involvement in the attack.

"He is singing," an unidentified Pakistani security official told the newspaper, referring to Shah.

India's angry accusation of a Pakistani link to the assault on Mumbai has revived old hostilities between the nuclear-armed rivals and raised fears of conflict.

Pakistan has condemned the Mumbai attacks and has denied any state role, blaming "non-state actors."

Pakistani government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment on the report.

Shah's admission was backed up by U.S. intercepts of a telephone call between Shah and one of the attackers during the assault, the Pakistani security official told the newspaper.

Shah told interrogators that he was one of the main planners of the assault and he had spoken to the attackers during the rampage to give them advice and keep them focused, the newspaper cited a second person familiar with the investigation as saying.

Shah had implicated other LeT members, and had broadly confirmed the account the sole captured gunman told Indian investigators, the second person told the newspaper.

According to Indian reports, the captured gunman told Indian interrogators the 10 attackers trained in Pakistani Kashmir and later went by boat from Karachi to Mumbai.

India's home minister, P. Chidambaram, on Wednesday repeated India's line that its neighbor must act on what New Delhi says is evidence of Pakistani militants' involvement in the attack.

Pakistan has repeatedly said India has not provided evidence.

"If anyone is in a state of denial anything that we give will be denied," Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.

"What more evidence does Pakistan require than the statement of the captured terrorist and his father?"

Chidambaram was referring to the lone surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab, who has told investigators he comes from Faridkot in Pakistan's Punjab region and that he was recruited by the LeT militant group.

Media in Pakistan have carried reports on a man from Faridkot who said he was Kasab's father.

Shah was picked up with another LeT commander, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, during Pakistani raids on militants launched in response to the Mumbai attack, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters on December 10.

Pakistani authorities did not have evidence that the LeT was involved in the attacks before the militants were arrested in Kashmir, the security official told the newspaper.

Their arrest was based only on initial guidance from U.S. and British authorities, the newspaper cited the official as saying.

Pakistan has promised to prosecute anyone if sufficient evidence is found linking them to the Mumbai attack but it has ruled out sending any Pakistanis to India for trial.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and came to the brink of a fourth after gunmen attacked the Indian parliament in December 2001.

After the Mumbai attacks, India put a "pause" on a five-year-old peace process that had brought warmer ties although it had failed to make progress on their core dispute over the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.