India demands 'strong action' from Pakistan

India demanded Pakistan take “strong action” against those behind the 60-hour siege that left at least 172 people dead, as new details emerged Monday about the gunmen and the survival training that enabled them to thwart Indian commandos.

India demanded Pakistan take "strong action" against those behind the 60-hour siege that left at least 172 people dead, as new details emerged Monday about the gunmen and the survival training that enabled them to thwart Indian commandos. The United States called on Pakistan to fully cooperate with investigations into the attack, which has strained relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Soldiers removed the last victims’ bodies from the shattered Taj Mahal hotel Monday, searching each room in the labyrinthine building and defusing booby-traps and bombs left by the gunmen. The sole known surviving attacker told police that his group trained for months in camps operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan, learning close-combat techniques, hostage taking, handling of explosives, satellite navigation and high seas survival skills. Lashkar was banned in Pakistan in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., a year after Washington and Britain listed it a terrorist group. It is since believed to have emerged under another name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though that group has denied links to the Mumbai attack. Mumbai’s most influential Muslim cemetery rejected the corpses of nine of the gunmen and said "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." Pakistan’s high commissioner to India was called to the foreign ministry and told that "elements from Pakistan" had carried out the attacks, ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash told reporters. The commissioner was told that India "expects that strong action would be taken against those elements," Prakash said. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Pakistan to "follow the evidence wherever it leads." "This is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation, and that’s what we expect," Rice said in London. She said the perpetrators of attacks "must be brought to justice." Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called the attackers "non-state actors" and warned against letting their actions lead to greater enmity in the region. "Such a tragic incident must bring opportunity rather than the defeat of a nation," Zardari said in an interview with Aaj television. "We don’t think the world’s great nations and countries can be held hostage by non-state actors." The announcement blaming Lashkar has threatened to escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. However, Indian officials have been cautious about accusing Pakistan’s government of complicity. Prakash, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, denied a news report that India was preparing to end a 2003 cease-fire with Pakistan. An intelligence official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said there was no unusual mobilization of troops along the India-Pakistan border. In Mumbai, teams from the FBI and Britain’s Scotland Yard met with top Indian police Monday as they prepared to help collect evidence from the attacks, a police official said. At the Taj Mahal, security forces declared the 565-room landmark — the scene of Saturday’s final battle — cleared of booby traps and bodies. "We were apprehensive about more bodies being found. But this is not likely — all rooms in the Taj have been opened and checked," said Maharashtra state government spokesman Bhushan Gagrani. The army had already cleared other sites, including the five-star Oberoi hotel and the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group. Israeli emergency workers sorted through the shattered glass and splintered furniture at the Jewish center Monday to gather the victims’ body parts. At one point, one of the men opened a prayer book amid the rubble and stopped to pray. The top provincial official, Vilasrao Deshmukh, offered to resign Monday, as did his deputy, R.R. Patil, who outraged many by referring to the attacks as "small incidents." The only gunman known to have survived, Ajmal Qasab, told investigators the gunmen trained over about six months at Lashkar camps near Karachi and another area of Pakistan, according to two security officials familiar with the probe, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the details. The men, between the ages of 18 and 28, received rigorous training in close-combat techniques, hostage taking, handling of explosives, satellite navigation and high seas survival skills, the officials said. A Muslim graveyard in Mumbai on Monday rejected the bodies of the nine dead attackers. "People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim," said Hanif Nalkhande, a trustee of the influential Jama Masjid Trust, which runs the 7.5-acre (three-hectare) Badakabrastan graveyard in downtown Mumbai. "Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime." While some Muslim scholars disagreed with the decision — saying Islam requires a proper burial for every Muslim — the city’s other Muslim graveyards are likely to do the same. Mumbai returned to normal Monday to some degree, with parents dropping their children off at school, and many shopkeepers opened their doors for the first time since the attacks began. "I think this is the first Monday I am glad to be coming to work," said Donica Trivedi, 23, an employee of a public relations agency. Indian officials said their country would not be broken. "This is a threat to the very idea of India, the very soul of India," Palaniappan Chidambaram, the just-named home minister, the country’s top law enforcement official, told reporters. "Ultimately the idea of India — that is a secular, plural, tolerant and open society — will triumph." India’s previous home minister resigned Sunday, as more details of the response to the attack emerged and a picture formed of woefully unprepared security forces. "These guys could do it next week again in Mumbai and our responses would be exactly the same," said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management and who has close ties to India’s police and intelligence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency. Singh promised to expand the commando force and set up new bases for it around the country. He called a rare meeting of leaders from the country’s main political parties, hours after the resignation of Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Among the 19 foreigners killed were six Americans. The dead also included Germans, Canadians, Israelis and nationals from Britain, Italy, Mexico, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Singapore and Mexico. Indian stocks fell sharply on the first day of trading after the end of the siege. The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, closed down 252.85 points, or about 2.8 percent. While the attacks could keep tourists and foreign investors away, some analysts attributed Monday’s declines to shock and anxiety in the immediate aftermath rather than a loss of confidence in India’s economic prospects.  AP Associated Press reporters Ravi Nessman, Paul Peachey, Anita Chang and Ramola Talwar Badam contributed to this report from Mumbai, Ashok Sharma contributed from New Delhi and Asif Shahzad from Islamabad, Pakistan. ______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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