ISLAMABAD, July 28 Pakistani investigators have found substantial evidence directly connecting Lashkar-e-Taiba to last year's Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed 166 people.
The findings provided the basis for the trial which started last week of five arrested LeT operatives by an anti-terrorism court inside Rawalpindi's Adiala jail. It is the first time that Pakistanis are being tried inside the country for carrying out terrorist attacks on foreign soil.
Political and security analysts in Islamabad said the serious nature of investigation into LeT's involvement and the trial indicated Pakistan's determination and commitment not to allow its territory to be used for planning and launching terrorist attacks.
An updated report on Pakistani investigation handed over to India on July 11 said the material recovered from LeT camps in Karachi and the coastal town of Thatta indicated that the terrorists were provided training and weapons by the militant outfit.
The investigation conducted by FIA gives some new and startling details about people involved in training and providing finances for the worst terrorist attack in India which heightened tensions between the two South Asian nations.
“The investigation has established beyond any reasonable doubt that the defunct LeT activists conspired, abetted, planned, financed and established communication network to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai,” said the report.
The LeT, which is the most powerful Pakistan-based Jihadi group, was outlawed in 2002, but it continued to operate in Kashmir. Western intelligence agencies maintain it continued its activities in Pakistan under the banner of Jamaatud Dawa, the charity wing of the group which also was declared a terrorist outfit by the UN Security Council earlier this year.
Pakistan has already arrested and charged five LeT commanders including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah with planning and facilitating the bloody assault. The other three accused are Hammad Amin Sadiq, Mazhar Iqbal alias Al Qama and Shahid Jamil Riaz, all activists of LeT.
Aamir Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the Mumbai attack who is now in Indian custody, in his statement named Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and some other LeT commanders for training and launching the terrorists. Kasab who came from the Fareedkot town in Punjab, was among 10 terrorists who carried out the attacks. The other nine killed during the attacks also belonged to Punjab which is the main stronghold of LeT.
The accused were produced on Saturday before a makeshift anti-terrorism court in the high-security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.
“There are sufficient oral, direct documentary, circumstantial and scientific evidence which directly connect the accused with the commission of the offence,” said the charge-sheet.
Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and Mazhar Iqbal (also known as 'Al Qama') have also been charged with planning, preparation and execution of the attacks and operational handling of the 10 terrorists. Lakhvi, the top commander of the LeT who was arrested on February 18, is a resident of Rinala Khurd in the district of Okara. He is named as the mastermind of the entire Mumbai massacre operation.
Zarar Shah, of Sheikhupura district, is a computer expert and he was in charge of communication. Mazhar Iqbal (Al Qama), a resident of Mandi Bahauddin, was the main handler.
Lakhvi and Zarar Shah are believed to have confessed to their involvement in the attacks. But Pakistani authorities have never confirmed that publicly.
According to defence attorney Shafqat Rajput, the court adjourned till August 29 after a brief hearing. “The trial will be conducted in camera,” Mr Rajput said.
The court has declared 12 other LeT activists as absconders. Most of them are crew members of Al Hussaini and Al Fouz, the boats which were used to transport the gunmen to Mumbai.
Investigators here said they had recovered handwritten diaries, training manuals, Indian maps and operational instructions from the LeT camps. “The accused were running training camps for terrorists, providing sea and navigational training, conducting intelligence courses and directions for terrorist attack,” the report said.
According to the new details, training sessions, codenamed 'Azizabad', were held in an LeT camp in Karachi from where the investigators seized militant literature, inflatable lifeboats, detailed maps of the Indian coastline, handwritten literature on navigational training and manual of an intelligence course.
Another training camp in Thatta was housed in five thatched rooms about two kilometres from a creek from where small boats sail to the sea. The terrorists also received training in this camp. The investigators seized pocket diaries containing names of the accused and other persons and details of expenditure of the camp.
Pakistan has asked Indian authorities to provide more information about Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, the Indian nationals suspected to be involved in facilitating the attack. Both are in custody and the Indian authorities had earlier denied that any of their nationals was involved in the attacks.
During investigations, the two had confessed to visiting Lahore, Rawalpindi, Muridke, Karachi and Muzaffarabad. They were also believed to be in contact with the five accused.