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India blasts Pakistan over hoax Mumbai call
Sun Dec 7, 2008 4:22am EST
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By C. Bryson Hull
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's foreign minister on Sunday accused Pakistan of trying to divert attention from the fact the Mumbai attacks were launched from its soil by leaking a story about a hoax call to Pakistan's president.
On Saturday, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that Pakistan had put its forces on high alert after a caller pretending to be Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee was connected to President Asif Ali Zardari on November 28.
The caller threatened Zardari, prompting Pakistan to put its forces on high alert and setting off diplomatic panic.
"I can only ascribe this series of events to those in Pakistan who wish to divert attention from the fact that a terrorist group, operating from the Pakistani territory, planned and launched a ghastly attack on Mumbai," Mukherjee said in a statement released on Sunday.
New Delhi has demanded Islamabad take swift action over what it says is the latest anti-India militant attack emanating from Pakistani soil.
At least 171 people were killed during the three-day assault last week across India's financial capital, which has imperiled improving ties between the long-time south Asian nuclear rivals.
"It is, however, worrying that a neighboring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a hoax call, try to give it credibility with other states, and confuse the public by releasing the story in part," Mukherhjee said.
Officials from "third countries" called to inform Mukherjee of the hoax call, he said. He did not name them, but Dawn said it was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was in both capitals last week to ease tensions.
Mumbai police have said the gunmen were controlled by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group blamed for earlier attacks in India including a 2001 assault on India's parliament that nearly sparked a fourth war between India and Pakistan.
LeT was formed to fight Indian rule in Kashmir with Pakistani intelligence help, but analysts say it is now part of a global jihadi network sympathetic to al Qaeda and may have direct ties.
INDIAN LINKS DEEPEN
The 60-hour rampage sparked public anger at the failure to prevent the attacks, which have been capitalized on by India's main opposition party in the lead-up to elections due by May.
India's newly home minister has admitted there were security lapses, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has proposed a national counterterrorism agency that could cut across state lines which currently divide police operations.
Police have already arrested a man they now identify as Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only one of the 10 gunmen captured alive, and on Friday arrested two others they say helped get the attackers get mobile phone cards.
Police in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, over which Indian and Pakistan have fought for six decades, on Sunday said one of those men had worked with them. Continued...
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