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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spy agency 'planned' Mumbai attack

PAKISTAN government's spy agency was involved in planning the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, a US court has heard.

David Coleman Headley, a US-Pakistani who has already pleaded guilty to helping plan the massacre, told a Chicago court Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) supported the Kashmir-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and ''co-ordinated'' with the banned militants in the lead-up to the attacks in India's largest city.

Headley's evidence compounds the embarrassment for Pakistan's military over a massive security failure on Sunday night when more than a dozen Taliban militants stormed a naval base in Karachi, killing 10 security personnel.

In November 2008, militants stormed Mumbai by boat, launching at least 10 co-ordinated attacks. They laid siege to the city for more than 60 hours, killing 166 people.

Headley was giving evidence in the trial of his childhood friend Tahawwur Rana, who is accused of helping him conduct surveillance ahead of the attacks, as well as aiding a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Rana has pleaded not guilty. Headley agreed to testify in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.

Headley joined Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2001 and was taught hand-to-hand combat at training camps. He told the court Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI regularly ''co-ordinated''. He said a ''navy frogman'' from Pakistan attended a planning meeting for the Mumbai attacks and he identified a co-defendant previously only known as ''Major Iqbal'' as a member of ISI.

''They co-ordinated with each other. The ISI provided assistance to Lashkar … financial and military,'' Headley said.

The possibility of ISI's involvement in the Mumbai attacks was raised in diplomatic cables sent from the US embassy shortly after the attacks, WikiLeaks has revealed. But Pakistan has rejected the allegations. ''ISI and serving officers did not provide support to David Headley, and ISI had nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks. David was a double agent, he is not a credible witness,'' a Pakistani embassy spokesman said in Washington.

In Karachi, the armed insurgents breached the supposedly secure military compound using only two ladders and held off troops in a gunfight for more than 17 hours, blowing up two P-3C Orion surveillance planes.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the militants apparently knew about a gap in the coverage of two security cameras, and chose that location to get inside.

Four militants died in the subsequent siege - three were shot and one blew himself up - and another two were believed to have escaped, he said.

Displaying pictures of the dead attackers, Mr Malik called on Pakistanis to unite against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

''I regret that some of us believe they are our friends and are praying for them. I appeal to the nation to consider who is the real enemy,'' he said.

Speculation continues over the fate of the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who was reported killed in the country.

While Taliban spokesmen have dismissed the reports by an Afghan TV station yesterday as ''pure propaganda'', Mullah Omar, the de facto head of state of the Taliban's ''Islamic emirate'' in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, is, at least, missing.

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