ISI knew of 26/11 plan, claims LeT

NEW DELHI: Ten months after the attacks on Mumbai, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) remains largely intact, may have 1.5 lakh members and is determined to strike India again, according to current and former members of the group, and intelligence officials, according to a report in The Times of India here today.

The report which quoted an exclusive report in the New York Times said that Lashkar continues to thrive despite pledges from Pakistan to dismantle militant groups operating on its soil, and the arrest of a handful of operatives in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage last November.

Indian and Pakistani dossiers on the Mumbai investigations, copies of which were obtained by the New York Times, offer a detailed picture of the operations of a Lashkar network that spans Pakistan. It includes four houses and two training camps here in Karachi.

Among the organisers, the Pakistani document says, was Hammad Amin Sadiq, a homeopathic pharmacist, who arranged bank accounts and secured supplies. He and six others begin their trial on Saturday in Pakistan, though Indian authorities say the prosecution stops well short of top Lashkar leaders.

“Indeed, Lashkar’s broader network endures, and can be mobilised quickly for elaborate attacks with relatively few resources, according to a dozen current and former Lashkar militants and intelligence officials from the US, Europe, India and Pakistan”, the report concluded.

The NYT report quoted interviews with several former Lashkar militants and intelligence officials present a troubling portrait of Lashkar’s capabilities, its popularity in Pakistan and the support it received from former officials of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

“Pakistani officials say that after 9/11, they broke contact with the group. No credible evidence has emerged of Pakistani government involvement in the Mumbai attacks, according to an American law enforcement official.

But a senior American intelligence official said the ISI was believed to maintain ties with Lashkar. Four Lashkar members, interviewed individually, said only a thin distance separated Lashkar and the ISI, bridged by former ISI and military officials”, it said.

The report quoted a highly placed Lashkar militant to say the Mumbai attackers were part of groups trained by former Pakistani military and intelligence officials. “Some had direct knowledge that retired army and ISI officials trained LeT recruits as late as last year. Some people of the ISI knew about the plan and closed their eyes”, the report said quoting one of the senior Lashkar operative in Karachi who said he had met some of the gunmen before they left for the Mumbai assault, though he did not know what their mission would be. The report said that intelligence official interviewed insisted on anonymity. Also the current and former Lashkar militants did not want their names used for fear of antagonising others in LeT or Pakistani authorities.