Indian police made a breakthrough on Monday, arresting a man suspected of helping to plot the 2008 deadly attacks in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai, Foreign Minister SM Krishna said.
Indian-born Abu Hamza is a suspected member of the banned Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), local media reported.
Abu Hamza, who is also known by the nom de guerre of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari and Abu Jundul, had been deported from Saudi Arabia and arrested on landing at Delhi’s international airport, according to some media reports.
A New Delhi police spokesman refused to comment, while the Saudi interior ministry was not immediately available for comment.
India blames LeT for the attacks that killed 166 people and shattered India’s fragile relations with Pakistan.
Authorities said a voice believed to be that of Abu Hamza was recorded speaking by phone from Pakistan to the militants at the time of the attacks.
He told the attackers to convey to the media that the “attack was a trailer and the entire movie was yet to come”, according to the Times of India.
Abu Hamza is also believed to have trained the attackers in speaking fluent Hindi, according to the reports.
Peace talks between India and Pakistan have resumed since the attacks, but New Delhi still suspects Islamabad of dragging its feet in bringing the perpetrators to justice, a charge Pakistan denies.
“Let the Delhi police go through the investigation first, and then they will send a report to the government,” Krishna replied to reporters, when asked how India would approach Pakistan over Hamza’s arrest.
“Then can we be sure of what appropriate action can be taken,” he added.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was collecting details, a top official told The Express Tribune.
“We are in touch with our mission in New Delhi and trying to figure out the situation,” Foreign Office spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan told The Express Tribune. “I will not comment officially unless the information is shared with us by Indian authorities.”
New Delhi has repeatedly called on Islamabad to take action against the alleged mastermind of the attacks and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed.
Jamaatud Dawa, a charity led by Hafiz Saeed and blamed to be an offshoot of LeT, was quick to deny any links with Abu Hamza.
“Indians say he (Abu Hamza) belongs to the LeT… we don’t recognise the group. We are Jamaatud Dawa. We are a charity involved in social welfare and not terrorists,” said Yahya Mujahid, a spokesperson for Hafiz Saeed.
But some LeT activists who had once been trained in the group’s camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and northern parts of Pakistan said the name Abu Hamza sounded familiar.
Although it has not been confirmed that Saudi Arabia played a role in Abu Hamza’s arrest, experts say, if this be the case it reflects pragmatism on Riyadh’s part.
“It looks to be based on real politicking wherein Saudi authorities preferred pragmatism over anything else,” Imtiaz Gul, who heads an Islamabad-based think tank, told The Express Tribune.
Security analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood agreed with Gul. “Public perception is different but it might have not been a difficult decision for Saudi leaders,” he said.
(Reuters with additional reporting by Zia Khan in Islamabad)
Published In The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.
More in WorldTTP admits to having safe haven in Afghanistan