WASHINGTON, Feb 12: The United States on Thursday welcomed the announcement in Islamabad that the Mumbai terror attacks were partly planned on the Pakistani soil, saying that it showed Pakistan’s seriousness in fighting terrorism.
“I think it shows that Pakistan is serious about doing what it can to deal with the people who may have perpetrated these attacks,” said US State Department spokesman Robert Wood when asked to comment on Mr Malik’s statement.
He said the United States and India had both asked Pakistan to “cooperate fully” in trying to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.
“So this would certainly be a very positive step,” he added.
Mr Wood said Islamabad’s action also showed it was committed to “doing everything in its power” to bring the culprits to justice, particularly those “living … within their borders”.
Describing Pakistan’s action as “a good step,” the State Department official said the United States was waiting for more information.
Asked if the US was using its influence to persuade Islamabad to arrest those responsible for the Mumbai and other terrorist attacks, the spokesman pointed out that Pakistan was facing “some tremendous challenges.”
But he also noted that it was “a sovereign state” and takes its decisions.
Pakistan has said that “it will pursue, will follow these leads wherever they go, in terms of trying to find out who was responsible for these horrific attacks in Mumbai,” he added.
“Pakistan knows the entire international community is watching and wants to see justice. And so that in itself, I think, will be sufficient incentive to the Pakistanis to follow every lead wherever it goes.”
Kabul attacks: During the briefing, a journalist claimed that he had seen reports suggesting that a Pakistan-based group was also responsible for Wednesday’s bombings that killed 20 people in Kabul.
“Do you have any information about that?” he asked.
“I don’t,” said the US spokesman. “But those were horrific attacks that took place and just a reminder that we have to continue to engage enemy forces.”
That’s why, he said, the US had sent its special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, to the region and was reviewing its Afghan policy.
The United States, he said, was trying to find “the right mix of political, economic and military ingredients to try to hopefully stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.”
He said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other members of the Obama administration were “very concerned” about violence in Kabul “and we’re going to do what we can, working with the Afghans to try to bring about stabilisation.”
Asked if he knew who was responsible for the Kabul attacks, Mr Wood said: “At this point, no” but it’s being investigated.
The spokesman was also asked to comment on an Amnesty International report which criticised the Pakistani government for leaving the Swat Valley residents to the mercy of the Taliban.
Mr Wood said that the Pakistani government was well aware of the challenges that it faces from the Taliban, both within its borders and across the border in Afghanistan.
“It’s a very severe challenge. But Pakistan certainly understands that there are a lot of challenges within that it has to deal with,” he added. “And we will try to be as supportive as we can and have been supportive.”
Mr Wood said that Mr Holbrooke would complete his current visit to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India by Feb. 16 and return to Washington next week.
Our Special Correspondent adds from London: The British government welcomed Islamabad’s acknowledgment of involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in the Mumbai attacks.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “We welcome Interior Minister Malik’s recent statement acknowledging the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists. “
The spokesperson further said that the lodging of a First Information Report and the arrest of suspected individuals were important steps towards prosecution.
“We will continue to urge the Pakistani government to move as rapidly as possible with legal proceedings against those responsible,” the spokesperson added.