Pakistan to swoop on militant leaders

India and US demand action against group thought to be behind Mumbai attacks

Pakistan's security forces were poised last night to arrest the leaders, dismantle the infrastructure and close the training camps of Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Islamic militant group held responsible by India for the killings of 171 people in Mumbai, government sources said.

India and the US have demanded action by Pakistan against the group, which operates more or less openly in Lahore and all over Punjab using a charitable and educational movement, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as a front organisation. The Pakistani government has said it has yet to see proof that the Mumbai attack was carried out by Pakistanis, but independent evidence is emerging which confirms that the lone surviving gunman, Ajmal Amir Kasab, came from the village of Faridkot, south-west of Lahore.

Lashkar-e-Toiba's leader, Mohammed Hafeez Saeed, lives in Lahore and local observers predict his detention could provoke violence in the city. The Indian police say that, during his interrogation, Mr Kasab claimed he had once met Mr Saeed during his 18 months of training in four camps in Pakistan.

But Pakistani government resolve to take action against Lashkar-e-Toiba could be undermined by angry exchanges with India yesterday over a hoax telephone conversation between the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a caller pretending to be the Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee on 28 November. Mr Mukherjee denies the Pakistani claim that a conversation took place in which he threatened Pakistan with war. Pakistan insists the call came from the Indian External Affairs Ministry.

The dispute illustrates the depth of the suspicions between the two countries. The senior Pakistani diplomat in the UK, High Commissioner Wajid Hassan, said at the weekend that he believed India had been preparing to attack his country and that he warned both his own government and British officials of his concerns.

Another likely target of the government clampdown is the complex of clinics and schools of Jamaat-ud-Dawa at Muridke, 15 miles north of Lahore. Former students say that while it was not obligatory to become a jihadi, pledged to fight the oppressors of Muslims, they were encouraged to move in that direction. Children had a small image of a machine gun printed on their tunics. Teachers related how they had fought as Lashkar-e-Toiba fighters infiltrated into Indian-controlled Kashmir. Students received training in hand-to-hand combat.

The most significant move by the Pakistani government would be to close down the military training camps in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Pakistani officials say they believe India considered launching air attacks on these in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks. Former students from Muridke have gone there for military training.

While Pakistani moves against Lashkar-e-Toiba might be more than cosmetic, they would not necessarily be effective. Although the group was formed in 1989 in collaboration with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, it does not follow that the ISI still has a measure of control over it. Since Pakistan stopped much of the border infiltration by Islamic fighters into Kashmir in 2004, many militants of groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba have developed close links with the Pakistan Taliban and al-Qa'ida. The motive behind the attack on Mumbai might have been to relieve the military pressure on these groups by provoking a crisis with India which would force the Pakistani army to withdraw from the Afghan border areas to face India.

The Pakistani government has hitherto said that it had been shown no convincing evidence that the Mumbai attack was launched from Pakistan or that Pakistanis had taken part. But this stance is undermined by the discovery that Mr Kasab did indeed come from Faridkot as he had claimed during interrogations. One villager confirmed that Mr Kasab's mother, Noor Elahi, had burst into tears when she saw him on television after his capture. Although she and her husband, Mohammed Amir, had left their house earlier in the week, their presence in the village was confirmed by the electoral roll. Villagers said that Lashkar-e-Toiba had significant support in the area.

The Pakistani government and military establishment are under intense pressure but do not want to be seen as caving in to India and the US. Since the peace process with India started in 2004 the infiltration of fighters from Pakistan into Kashmir has reportedly fallen by 85 per cent. But the Pakistanis feel that India has not responded to such conciliatory gestures and simply acts as if the Kashmir issue was resolved.

Taliban allies attack US supply vehicles in Peshawar

A measure of the violence now spreading across Pakistan was the attack yesterday morning by 200 pro-Taliban militants in the city of Peshawar on a depot where they set fire to 160 vehicles carrying supplies to American-led troops in Afghanistan. The successful assault highlights the threat to their supplies, three-quarters of which come through Pakistan.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee