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US sends top defence official to India to probe Mumbai attack

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | December 03, 2008 09:59 IST

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The United States has sent its top defence official to India to find out the culprit behind the Mumbai terror attacks [Images] that had claimed over 200 lives, including Americans, last week.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates has confirmed that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen is on his way to India or already there.

"Admiral Mullen is in the area as is Secretary Rice, as you know. And, frankly, because the situation is fairly delicate, I don't want to say too much about it. It clearly was the act of an extremist group that apparently was targeting Americans and Britons," Gates said.

"But the truth is most of the people who were killed were Indians. And so it's important that we find out who did it and try and prevent it from ever happening again," he added.

The top Pentagon official joined other members of the Bush administration in not commenting on reports attributed to unnamed US officials about providing early warning to India about a maritime attack.

Commending India for showing restraint at the time of tragedy, Gates said that neither India has asked for assistance in the realm of counter-terrorism nor has the US offered the same.

"... I don't want to get into the intelligence that we have. I'd like to commend the Indians for their restraint at this point," Gates said at a briefing.

"I learned a long time ago not to respond to anonymous intelligence officials either here or abroad. So I'm not going to -- I'm not going to go down that road. As I say, I think it's important for there to be restraint on both sides, but it's also important to find out who was responsible. And I think what we would like to see is both countries work together to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again," Gates said.

Asked if he is concerned that the recent tensions between India and Pakistan might divert Pakistan's attention to its eastern border and, therefore, it may soften efforts on the western border with Afghanistan, the Pentagon official said, "That's kind of hypothetical. I would just say that we haven't seen any sign of that at this point".

Responding on another query about any specific requests from India for either US training or US equipment and if there has been any such offers from the US to India, Gates said, "The answer to both is no. Not as far as I know".

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