WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group based in Pakistan may have been responsible for the attacks by militants in India’s financial hub of Mumbai that killed 183 people, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday.
The Pakistani government has offered to cooperate with India to find the attackers amid rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals over the three-day assault at two luxury hotels and other landmarks.
“There are a lot of reasons to think it might be a group, partially or wholly a group, that is located on Pakistan’s territory,” the official told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
The official, who did not identify the source of his information, spoke hours before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to leave for New Delhi to discuss last week’s attacks with the Indian government.
Indian authorities were warned of an imminent attack by Islamist gunmen who would arrive by sea days before the Mumbai attacks, according to a senior coast guard source in India.
The owner of the city’s Taj Mahal hotel, at the center of the militant assault, said he had also received a warning of a possible attack and had stepped up security.
U.S. officials would not publicly comment on reports that the United States had shared intelligence with India warning of a terrorism threat before the attacks, but privately acknowledged that threat information had been passed along.
ABCNews.com, quoting unnamed sources, said U.S. intelligence agencies warned their Indian counterparts in mid-October of a potential attack and specific locations, including the Taj hotel, were listed in the U.S. warning.
“Obviously we try to pass on information to countries all around the world when we pick up information,” Rice said at a news conference in Brussels.
But sometimes information described as warnings “are often difficult to act on, sometimes not very concrete,” she said.
“I would just note that the problem with terrorism is that information is useful but it is not always something that you can prevent,” Rice said.
Investigators have said the attacks were carried out by militants trained by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (L-e-T) group, also blamed for a 2001 attack on India’s parliament.
U.S. officials say the attacks bear the hallmarks of operations undertaken by groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and al Qaeda.
“While all the information is not in yet, it does appear at this point that the attackers had connections to Lashkar-e-Taiba,” a U.S. counterterrorism official said.
“I don’t think we can rule out al Qaeda, I just don’t think we know at this point,” another U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood noted that the FBI was part of a team investigating the attacks in India, but said it was too early to say who was behind the attacks.
“Pakistan ... needs to give its full, complete and transparent cooperation with the investigation into the Mumbai attacks and to follow leads wherever they may go,” he said.
“Pakistan has said the right things. And it’s pledged to investigate and to cooperate with this investigation that India’s undertaking,” he said. “And that’s what we need. We need 100 percent effort.”
Reporting by Sue Pleming in Brussels, additional reporting by Washington bureau; Editing by Alan Elsner and Cynthia Osterman
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