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Pak hasn't nabbed majority of 26/11 suspects

By Rezaul H Laskar
November 28, 2010 16:27 IST
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Pakistani authorities have made no progress in tracking down 20 suspects, including Karachi-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Muhammad Amjad Khan, who were named in a chargesheet filed in an anti-terrorism court a year ago for playing a key role in facilitating the Mumbai attacks.

Two years after the assault on India's financial hub that killed 166 people, investigators have made no headway in tracing these 20 suspects who helped arrange boats, finances, training and equipment for the 10 Pakistani terrorists who carried out the attacks, diplomatic sources told PTI.

The Federal Investigation Agency and Pakistani intelligence agencies arrested seven suspects, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, in the months following the attacks. Lakhvi was arrested during an army raid in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's capital Muzaffarabad while the others were held in Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The trial of these suspects in a Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court has been marred by repeated procedural delays and controversies while the judge has been changed thrice since the proceedings began last year.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the proceedings are stalled and can move forward only if a commission visits India to interview key witnesses, including the lone surviving attacker Ajmal Kasab. Senior Indian security officials told PTI that except for LeT operatives Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, the other five suspects put on trial were "minor players" and had played "inconsequential" roles in the planning and execution of the attacks.

Diplomatic sources said investigators had no information on the current whereabouts of the 20 other suspects named in the chargesheet that was filed in the anti-terrorism court on the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks last year. Most of the suspects are linked to the banned LeT.

A key absconding suspect is Muhammad Amjad Khan, a shadowy LeT organiser and financier from Karachi who figured in a majority of dossiers provided to Pakistan by India. Khan, who hails from Multan, played a key role in arranging and providing funds to the attackers.

Iftikhar Ali, another suspect from Faisalabad in Punjab, deposited 250 dollars with a firm in Islamabad to obtain a Voice-over Internet Protocol connection that was used by the attackers and their handlers. Another suspect is Shahid Ghafoor, identified in court documents as the captain of Al Hussaini and Al Fouz, the boats used by the attackers.

Ten other suspects, most of them hailing from Punjab, served as crew members of the two boats. Yet another suspect, Muhammad Khan from Turbat in Balochistan, is wanted for providing the boat Al Hussaini tothe terrorists. Six more suspects --Sufyan Zafar, Muhammad Usman Zia, Muhammad Abbas Nasir, Javed Iqbal and Mukhtar Ahmed from Punjab and Ahmed Saeed from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa--are wanted for their links to the finance network of the LeT that helped arrange funds for the attacks.
India again conveyed its concerns to Pakistan regarding the lack of progress in the trial of Mumbai attack suspects, asking it to take "expeditious action" to bring to justice all perpetrators of the terrorist assault. New Delhi's concerns were conveyed to Pakistan Interior Minister Malik by High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal during a meeting last evening.

The Indian envoy reiterated the concerns that were expressed by the External Affairs Ministry on the eve of the second anniversary of the attack regarding the lack of "substantive and verifiable progress" in the ongoing trial of the Pakistani suspects, the spokesman for the Indian HighCommission said. "The High Commissioner expressed the hope that expeditious action would be taken to bring all the perpetrators to justice," the spokesman said.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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