India marks Mumbai attacks

November 26, 2009 12:00 am

, MUMBAI, Nov 26 – India marked the first anniversary Thursday of last year\\\’s attacks on Mumbai with a show of strength and ceremonies to honour the 166 victims killed in a deadly rampage by 10 heavily-armed Islamist gunmen.

The day of remembrance came as India continued to push Pakistan, where the militants are believed to have trained, to crack down on extremist groups amid lingering concerns about lax homeland security.

Police paraded through Mumbai and abseiled down tall buildings, showing off new hardware, including armour-plated vehicles and amphibious vehicles bought as part of a 1.3-billion-rupee (27-million-dollar) upgrade package.

Silent tributes were held by Indian lawmakers in parliament and by cricketers before their Test match with Sri Lanka, as prayers and vigils were held across India\\\’s financial capital.

Candles were lit at a Mumbai synagogue on Wednesday, with faith leaders and foreign diplomats calling for unity to fight and defeat extremism around the world.

Two luxury hotels that were among the multiple targets, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and the Trident-Oberoi, took out full-page newspaper advertisements, paying tribute to victims and thanking guests, staff and the security services.

Prakash Madhusadan Joshi, a medical doctor from western Gujarat state, lit candles outside the Taj and the landmark Gateway of India monument with his wife and four children.

"The idea is to allow the spirit of the people who died to rest in peace. This is to remember them," he told AFP.

Varsha Shah flew in from Canada especially for the anniversary and said she was pleased to see more visible security.

"I see more police at the airport, more patrolling on the roads. It\\\’s a good sign. But we need to constantly keep up the effort," she added.

The bloody 60-hour siege, beamed live across the world on television, shocked the country, sparked a public backlash against the Indian government for not preventing the attacks and led to a global investigation.

Seven suspects were indicted in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Wednesday in connection with the attacks. They all denied the charges.

Two men detained by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago are also being probed by Indian authorities for their links to the atrocities, blamed by India on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Two Pakistanis are in custody in Italy after being arrested last week on suspicion of having sent money to people implicated in the attacks.

The only gunman captured alive admitted his role in the killings during his high-profile trial in Mumbai, which could see him executed if found guilty.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a visit to the United States this week, called for the world to pressure Pakistan to rein in extremists.

The attacks ended peace talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours and rivals, with India vowing not to return to the table until all those responsible were brought to justice.

Singh, who welcomed the indictment against the LeT suspects, called for the world to "use all its influence to curb the power of terrorist groups" in Pakistan, which has seen a rise in Taliban-linked violence.

Pakistan has admitted under international pressure that the gunmen left for Mumbai from the southern port city of Karachi.

Security has been improved in Mumbai in the last year after criticisms that the police lacked men, equipment and training to respond effectively.

Luxury hotels have introduced airport-style checks and there is a visible armed police presence at key locations, while private security firms have seen an upsurge in business for corporate clients.

Elite commandos are now stationed in Mumbai and local police have set up their own rapid reaction units.

India\\\’s Home Ministry said Thursday that it was "totally committed" to tackling extremism.

"A number of sleeper cells have been broken up, key LeT operatives arrested, terrorist incidents averted and a large number of cases resolved," it added in a statement.

But commentators say more still needs to be done to prevent another attack, with coastal security and boosting police capacity a priority.


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