Pakistani suspects linked to al-Qa'ida, says Israel's ambassador

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The Independent Online

Israel's ambassador to India has raised the possibility that the Pakistani group accused by the Indian authorities of carrying out the Mumbai attacks may be linked to the al-Qa'ida international terror network.

Mark Sofer said Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has been linked the attacks, "has never taken a position on Middle East affairs". "Is this small organisation part of a much wider global jihadi group, such as al-Qa'ida? I fear the answer to that is yes," he said.

An ultra-orthodox Jewish community centre was one of the targets during last week's attacks in Mumbai. Six people died at Nariman House, including the rabbi and his wife who ran it. If the attackers were part of a global network, the response should be "unified international action against fundamentalist terrorism," said Mr Sofer.

The ambassador declined to speculate on whether India might carry out retaliatory strikes against militant camps inside Pakistan and noted that the Indian government had opted to raise diplomatic pressure on the Pakistani government to co-operate in the investigation. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

"We were forced in the Middle East to move into other areas to counteract terrorist attacks. I think India will have to think very carefully," he added.

Mr Sofer said that anti-Semitic attacks were unknown in India and suggested it was no coincidence that the attackers targeted the ultra-orthodox Jewish centre, which served as a hostel for Jewish backpackers and businessmen.

The New York Times yesterday quoted Indian police as saying that evidence had emerged to suggest that the six hostages at the Jewish centre had been tortured. Some of the bodies appeared to have strangulation marks and wounds not consistent with gunshots, the paper said. The claims were disputed by Mr Sofer.