Who's Responsible For The Mumbai Attacks?

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The U.S. government is sending investigators to India to help determine who carried out the attacks in Mumbai. A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed credit for the attacks. The Indian government is suggesting the gunmen are linked to neighboring Pakistan.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The U.S. government is sending investigators to India to help determine who might have carried out the attacks in Mumbai. NPR's Jackie Northam is following the investigation. Jackie, good morning.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's start with what the Indian government is saying. What do they contend that they know about these attacks and the attackers?

NORTHAM: Well, it was very interesting. Shortly after the attacks started unfolding, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, came out and made veiled references to neighbors being involved. He said that the groups that were carrying out the attacks came from outside the country. And that's a veiled reference to Pakistan, neighboring Pakistan. And since then, the foreign minister and other government officials have become just more pointed. They have said Pakistan. Pakistan vehemently denies that it's had any involvement. Its intelligence agencies have always sort of been accused of being involved with terror groups, you know, Kashmiri separatist groups and that type of thing. And now we're just hearing that Pakistan's intelligence chief has agreed to come to India to help work with the Indians on this situation.

INSKEEP: I suppose we should mention that today, one Indian official, while pointing the finger at Pakistan, went on to say, we can't show you the evidence right now, whatever it may be. But let's focus on what the evidence is, as far as we're able to determine, Jackie. What is known?

NORTHAM: Well, actually, the picture is really unclear still, Steve. There's not a lot of details. The Indians do have a few suspects in custody. But they're not sharing any information. It's believed that the gunmen came by boat from the Pakistani city of Karachi. Again, that has not been stood up at all. There is some speculation that a Pakistani group called Lashkar-i-Taiba is behind the attacks, and this is one of these Kashmiri separatist groups that have been blamed for other attacks in India in the past. Lashkar-i-Taiba has denied any involvement in this, and many analysts I spoke with said this could very well be home-grown terrorists. India has seen a number of terror threats and attacks over the past few years, mostly small-scale things and also from Hindu and Muslim groups. Not just Islamist extremists at all, you know; these groups have become radicalized in that. So we just have to wait and see, but at this point the Indians are not sharing a lot of information about who is behind these attacks in Mumbai.

INSKEEP: Anybody talking about al-Qaeda?

NORTHAM: They are. You know, I spoke with a lot of analysts over the past couple of days, and they said the attacks bore some of the hallmarks of al-Qaeda. Certainly the scale and sophistication of the attack suggests al-Qaeda. You know, these were highly orchestrated, well-planned, and hit a number of targets at the same time. The targets themselves also point to al-Qaeda. You know, they were focused on westerners, they hit a commercial district and a Jewish center. But implementation doesn't really say al-Qaeda. You know, that group will normally carry out a suicide bombing or use explosive devices. It doesn't normally send in gunmen, you know, firing indiscriminately into crowds or certainly taking hostages. So a lot of analysts feel that, while the group was responsible for the Mumbai attacks may have some loose connection, whether it be operational or ideological connection with al-Qaeda, these attacks probably aren't coming from the core group itself.

INSKEEP: We're talking with NPR's Jackie Northam, who covers national security for NPR News and has also spent a lot of time in South Asia. And with that in mind, Jackie, I'd like to ask, given that we still don't know with any firmness who was behind these attacks, is there a real danger that India's concern that Pakistan is behind this in some way - could worsen relations between these two nuclear powers?

NORTHAM: Oh, certainly. And that's what the U.S., in particular, is worried about at this point. You know, Washington has been carefully trying to get the two countries to reconcile, put back longstanding differences to the side for several reasons. One, as you know, this whole area is volatile. You've got Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and so they want to try to keep the lid on any tensions within, you know, any of the countries in the region. But also the U.S. hopes that if the two countries - India and Pakistan - can make some sort of peace agreement, then the Pakistani military will stop focusing it's efforts on India, and will start fighting terrorists in Pakistan itself, in its tribal regions.

The effort now is to make sure the Mumbai attacks don't spark some sort of crisis between India and Pakistan. You know, there was one several years ago, in 2001, when gunmen stormed the Indian parliament and killed scores of people. India said Pakistan was behind it. And the two countries faced off along their border for months. It was an extremely serious situation. Both countries have nuclear weapons. No one wants to see things descend into that type of situation again.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam. Thanks very much.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: And one more announcement today may add to that tension. An Indian official has said that one of the militants arrested in the attacks is a Pakistani national.

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