Mumbai Attack Questions Still Unanswered

It's been less than a month since a band of Islamist militants landed on the shores of Mumbai, India, and set off on a rampage that lasted three days. India says the attackers came by boat from Pakistan and belonged to a terrorist organization based there. Many questions remain about why the attacks happened, and who was really behind them.

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It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm Renee Montagne. There are still plenty of questions about the terror attacks in the city of Mumbai that left some 170 people dead last month. Indian officials say they're certain the attackers came by boat from Pakistan and belong to a terrorist group based there. Investigators still want to know how did such a small group of gunmen carry out such a major attack, and were there other individuals or groups involved? Today we're going to take a look at the view from both India and Pakistan. We begin with a report from NPR's Philip Reeves who's in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

(Soundbite of people shouting)

PHILIP REEVES: India's still seething with anger. These were the scenes yesterday as its lower house of Parliament rushed through legislation establishing a national investigative agency and toughening antiterrorism laws. The idea is to make it easier to solve future terrorism cases. As for the present case, the onslaught on Mumbai, India believes it already knows the culprits.

Dr. AJAY SAHNI (Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management): In this particular case, we're absolutely certain it's the Lashkar-e-Taiba based in Pakistan. So, we are very clear, one, it's the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

REEVES: Ajay Sahni is director of the Institute for Conflict Management, a privately funded conservative research organization in New Delhi.

Dr. SAHNI: Two, if it's the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani state cannot say, we have no responsibility.

REEVES: Sahni says the Lashkar-e-Taiba was created by Pakistani intelligence years ago as a proxy militia to fight inside Afghanistan and then in Indian-controlled Kashmir. He says Lashkar's become a regional affiliate of al-Qaeda, one that targets India in the hope of causing it to collapse, step by step.

Allegations are also flying in India that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, was behind the Mumbai attacks. This is the view of former government minister Arun Shourie from the main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist BJP. Shourie suggests the Mumbai assault may have been a ploy to crank up tensions with India so that Pakistan could extract itself from fighting the war against the Taliban along its northwestern frontier.

Mr. ARUN SHOURIE (Former Government Minister, BJP, India): If there is increased tension with India, they can claim, no, no, India is going to attack us. We're going to our eastern border, and you fight your own war.

REEVES: After previous attacks, India has accused Pakistan outright. This time the Indian government's taking a more nuanced line. It says the peace process with Pakistan is on pause. Relations won't return to normal, it says, until Pakistan takes effective steps against militant organizations. That includes dismantling their infrastructures, banning them for good, and arresting and trying militant leaders.

India's placing the responsibility for getting rid of militants on Pakistani territory squarely on the shoulders of Pakistan. But it's been careful not to directly accuse the Pakistani government or its intelligence agency, the ISI. Speaking to the Indian TV news channel CNN-IBN, India's foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said the attacks were committed by what he called elements in Pakistan, but he wouldn't go any further.

(Soundbite of Indian news channel CNN-IBN)

Unidentified Reporter: Is there any truth to a report put out by PTI late last week that the government has evidence that suggests that ISI is officially involved as well?

Mr. PRANAB MUKHERJEE (Indian Foreign Minister): Look, I'm not interested in having trial by media.

REEVES: That's not the only unanswered question about the Mumbai attacks. The internationally renowned author and political activist Arundhati Roy is raising plenty of others.

Ms. ARUNDHATI ROY (Author; Political Activist): I have become a person who believes in nothing.

REEVES: Roy cautions against jumping to conclusions, saying that after previous attacks, official versions of events have proved untrue. That includes the assault on India's parliament, also blamed partly on Lashkar-e-Taiba, an event which brought India and Pakistan close to another war. Roy's written extensively about that attack.

Ms. ROY: Evidence has been fabricated, witnesses have lied. There is no due process at all. So what are we supposed to think?

REEVES: Three weeks after the Mumbai attacks began, many in India are still anxiously awaiting answers. Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.

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Correction Dec. 18, 2008

Some versions of this story incorrectly said that the attack on the Indian Parliament took place in 1991. It actually happened in 2001.

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