MUMBAI, Dec 10 – Indian police have provided new details about the brazen militant attacks in Mumbai, releasing the names of the gunmen and their hometowns across the border in Pakistan.,
The information appeared to bolster India’s insistence that a Pakistan Islamist guerrilla group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), helped to finance the assault and train the attackers whose siege left 172 dead and more than 300 wounded.
Pakistan has repeatedly demanded proof of the Indian claims. But under international pressure to act, Pakistan authorities say they have arrested 16 people since Saturday, including a senior LeT member.
Mumbai police chief Rakesh Maria, in charge of the Indian investigation, said Tuesday that details about the gunmen were obtained from Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, the only man captured alive and who is now in police custody.
"All of them were given aliases during training to prevent them from knowing each others’ original names," Maria told reporters.
According to police, Iman, from Okara, Punjab, opened fire on commuters at Mumbai’s main railway station on November 26 with Ismail Khan, alias Abu Ismail, from Dera Ismail Khan in restive northwest Pakistan.
Maria also gave the names of four other people who attacked the Taj Mahal hotel, two who attacked a Jewish cultural centre, and two who attacked the Oberoi/Trident hotel. All were said to be from Pakistan.
The youngest of the group was 20 and the eldest was 28, Maria said, adding that three had been involved in previous attacks. He did not elaborate.
Tensions between the two countries have been high over the attack and Indian officials say Pakistan, which banned the LeT years ago, had not done enough to enforce that ban.
Pakistan now says it has arrested 16 people in the past few days, including LeT’s operations director Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and the head of another Islamic group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Tuesday that his country did not want war with India, which has declined to rule out military action, including air strikes, on militant camps in Pakistan.
But he added that Pakistan was "fully prepared in case war is imposed on us" and said those arrested were part of Pakistan’s own probe into the attacks.
"Even if allegations are proved against any suspect, he will not be handed over to India. We will proceed against those arrested under Pakistani laws," he added.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and nearly came to a fourth in 2001 after an attack on the Indian parliament that was also blamed on the LeT.
US President George W. Bush vowed Tuesday to help Pakistan fight extremists in its remote tribal areas but said he would also "do what is necessary" to blunt any threats in the region.
The gunmen who stormed the two luxury hotels in Mumbai singled out US and British citizens, witnesses said at the time. Americans were among the 26 foreigners killed .
Pakistan, which is battling Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked insurgents in its lawless border region with Afghanistan, moved on Sunday against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity, which has close links to LeT.
Also arrested was Maulana Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed rebel group. He was captured in Indian Kashmir in 1995 but freed by New Delhi in 1999 in return for the safe release of passengers on a hijacked Air India jet.
He is reported to be on a list of people that India last week requested Pakistan extradite in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.