Pakistan blamed by India for raid on parliament

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The Independent Online

India accused Pakistan's intelligence services yesterday of being behind last week's suicide attack on the Indian parliament, in a move certain to raise tension between the neighbouring countries.

Delhi's police chief, Ajay Raj Sharma, said the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba group in Pakistan, and Jaish-e-Mohammed, made up of Kashmiri militants, were responsible for the attack in which 13 people died, including five gunmen and six police.

But Mr Sharma, who is in charge of investigating the attack, said the ringleader, Mohammad Afzal, an alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed militant who is in police custody, had admitted being trained at a camp run by Pakistan's intelligence service, known as ISI. The camp was in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

"The ISI connection is very clear," he said. "It now seems the ISI ordered the Jaish and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba to launch a combined attack."

Mr Sharma also said that the five attackers who died in the raid, with eight other people, were all Pakistani citizens. The police chief said that the original target appeared to have been Delhi's international airport but that the attackers had changed their minds for an unknown reason. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the main Kashmiri separatist groups have denied any involvement.

The accusation is certain to anger Islamabad and worsen relations between the two nuclear-armed states, which remain fraught over control of Kashmir. Pakistan was quick to distance itself from the assault, condemning what it called a "terrorist" action. Islamabad insists that, while it supports groups in Kashmir advocating independence from India, it has not given them military aid.

India called on Pakistan on Friday to show it was putting its words into action by closing down Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, freezing their assets and arresting their leaders.

Responding to internal pressure to take a tougher line with Pakistan over Kashmir, the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, insisted Delhi had reached the limit of its tolerance and would not necessarily refrain from sending its forces over the Line of Control dividing Kashmir as it did in the last severe border conflict over Kashmir in 1999.

Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, threatened on Saturday to retaliate with force if India took any "precipitous action" over Kashmir. "Any adventure would be met with force," he said. At the same time, he promised to act against any group based in Pakistan that was proven to be involved in the Delhi raid.

As India and Pakistan traded threats and dire warnings over Kashmir, the violence there continued unabated, with India reporting that it had shot dead four attackers who raided an Indian military camp, south of the state capital, Srinagar. In another incident, two people were killed when they tried to cross the Pakistan border into India, police said. Violence has escalated in Kashmir since the beginning of the Muslim fast of Ramadan in November. Police say more than 320 people, mostly rebels, have died during this period.