Pakistan says 124 held in wake of Mumbai attack

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Thursday security forces had closed five training camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the Mumbai attack, and arrested 124 of its leaders and those of a related charity.

Tension between nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India has been simmering since the late November attack in which gunmen killed 179 people in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

India has become increasingly frustrated with what it sees as Pakistan’s lack of action. Pakistan has been angered by an Indian suggestion Pakistani state agencies were involved and what it sees as repeated Indian hints of military action.

Pakistan condemned the attack, denied involvement of any of its agencies and offered to cooperate with India in the investigation.

Pakistan’s top Interior Ministry official, Rehman Malik, repeated that offer on Thursday as he outlined action the government had taken against the LeT and an Islamic charity the United Nations says is an LeT front.

“We have arrested a total (of) 124,” Malik told a news conference, adding those arrested were “mid-level, lower-mid-level and their top leadership.”

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was banned in Pakistan in 2002 but the United Nations says it has been using its charity wing, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), as a front for its militant activities.

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JuD was added to a U.N. list of terrorist organizations days after the Mumbai attacks. Hafiz Saeed, founder of the LeT and head of JuD, was put under house arrest soon after that.


British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who has been in India and is due to visit Pakistan, said Pakistan had to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.

“We should hold the Pakistan government to the promise that these people will be put through the judicial system and, if found guilty, will be prosecuted. That’s only a first step,” Miliband said in a speech at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, one of the places the gunmen attacked in November.

“LeT also needs to be tackled at its root. It’s evident there has been a failure in policy and policy needs to change to tackle LeT at its root,” he said.

Malik said the government had closed 20 offices, 87 schools and several religious seminaries, or madrasas, run by JuD. Authorities also banned its publications and blocked six group websites, he said.

Policemen stand guard outside the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the sites of last month's militant attacks, during New Year celebrations in Mumbai December 31, 2008. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

“All activities of that particular organization stand ceased,” Malik said.

The Indian government and military have said all options are open in their response to the Mumbai attack, which Pakistan has interpreted as a veiled threat of a military response.

Political analysts say war is unlikely, however.

Malik said he wanted India to allow Pakistani investigators to help in the investigation: “We need interaction and I request my counterpart please make the arrangements ... Interaction will bring quick results.”

In response, India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, urged direct communication between the two countries.

“Instead of being informed through the media, I would be happy to receive a direct response from Pakistan through existing diplomatic channels, and to see Pakistan implementing her words,” Mukherjee said in a statement late on Thursday.

India has provided Pakistan with data from satellite telephones used by the attackers and what it describes as the confession of a surviving gunman.

Additional reporting by Rina Chandran in Mumbai; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Andrew Dobbie