A captured suspect in the Mumbai attacks has told police that he is
Pakistani, Indian officials say. CNN's sister station, CNN-IBN, reports that
the alleged terrorist said he was trained by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a
Pakistan-based terror group that opposes India
over the disputed Kashmir region.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, known by its initials LeT in the counter-terrorism
community, should be the leading suspect in the attacks, according to a U.S. counterterrorism official who closely
follows South Asia.
"My money is on LeT. They've been getting lots of operational
experience in Afghanistan
and the younger LeT guys are trigger-happy. The countries they aim to destroy: India, U.S.
Looks like they hit all three in Mumbai," the official says.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has conducted high-profile attacks in India, including an attack on the Indian
Parliament in December 2001, which brought Pakistan
to the brink of war the following year.
The Indian Parliament attack displayed a modus operandi similar to the
recent Mumbai attacks. It involved several attackers armed with automatic
weapons, willing to die in an operation that, while it was not a conventional
suicide attack, was suicidal in intent. Only one of the 11 gunmen identified so
far in the Mumbai attacks has survived.
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba derives strength from the fact that, like the Lebanese
terrorist group Hezbollah, it draws on a much wider base of support than many
terrorist organizations. Until January of 2002, when it was officially banned
following the attack on the Indian Parliament, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba maintained
2,200 offices around the country and attracted hundreds of thousands of
followers to its annual gatherings. Its charitable arm also runs schools and
medical clinics and played an important role in earthquake relief efforts in Kashmir in 2005.
Technically Lashkar no longer exists, but it has continued to operate under
different names and its leader, Hafiz Saeed, has continued to address rallies
A spokesman for the group has denied any role in the Mumbai attacks.
Besides conducting numerous terrorist operations in India,
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba has international reach. Two American Muslims who traveled to
Lashkar training camps in Pakistan
have been convicted of terrorism-related charges in the past several years.
According to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Lashkar members have
been arrested in both Afghanistan
And the terror group has ties to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah,
for instance, was arrested at the home of a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba leader in Pakistan in
According to the U.S.
counterterrorism official, the total Mumbai attack force likely involved at
least 40 "operatives" and "facilitators" and showed an
"impressive" level of internal security given "robust"
Indian counterterrorism efforts.
The official also said one of the aims of the attacks was to
"sour" the foreign commercial presence and investment atmosphere for
Another U.S. counterterrorism official pointed out that there are
similarities between the recent attacks in Mumbai and those masterminded by
Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian gangster, in March 1993, when 13 bombs went off in
Mumbai targeting the Mumbai Stock Exchange, hotels and shopping districts --
attacks that killed some 250 people.
In 2003, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Dawood Ibrahim as a
"specially designated global terrorist." When Ibrahim was designated,
Treasury described him as an Indian crime lord linked to al Qaeda and known to
have financed the activities of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.
The U.S. government has
already designated LeT as a terrorist group, but the larger aim of the incoming
Barack Obama administration should be to put additional effort into bringing a
peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute that underlies the tensions between India and Pakistan.
That is something that South Asia
specialist Bruce Riedel has been forcefully advocating in recent months.
Riedel, a former CIA officer and National Security Council official and now senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution, has been advising Obama. And Hillary
Clinton, nominated Monday by Obama for secretary of state, has long been
thinking about the idea of sending a special envoy to the region who would be
responsible for helping to settle all the various disputes between Afghanistan, Pakistan
My candidate for the job: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who brought peace to
the Balkans in the mid-1990s with the masterful Dayton accords that he oversaw and managed.