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Pakistan fears imminent Indian attack, alerts world
Mukherjee denies having issued any threats

The Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, says India is ready to launch a military strike on Pakistan in retaliation for the Mumbai terror attacks, AP has reported quoting Sky News.

Hassan has said British and American officials have to intervene to prevent India from carrying out an attack.

The APreport said: "On the day of the Mumbai attacks, I got some information in London that India was going to act very drastically against Pakistan in retaliation to what happened," Hassan told Sky News.

The senior diplomat alerted the Pakistani government and President Asif Ali Zardari to the threat.

In turn, Zardari urgently contacted high level British and American officials who intervened to calm the situation.

"The president spoke to people in various places and the next day Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke to Mr. Zardari and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Shri Pranab Mukherjee, India’s External affairs Minister," Hassan told Sky News. "It was probably because of that reason why the tension that was building up was eased a little."

There was no response to the claims made by Hassan from the Foreign Office.

"We do not comment on security issues," A spokeswoman told Sky News.

Following the attacks at the end of last month, which left more than 170 dead,

Pakistan...

Indian politicians were quick to point the finger of blame at Pakistan.

An Indian intelligence report seen by a Sunday paper claims the 10 terrorist commandos involved in the Mumbai attacks were among 500 trained to elite standards by Pakistan army and navy instructors.

Details were leaked as Indian officials accused Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) of directly supporting the attack.

They claimed to have the names of the gunmen’s ISI trainers and handlers and to have intercepted internet phone calls between them, ‘The Times’ reported.

The Indian intelligence report claims the Mumbai gunmen were among a large group of volunteer "fedayeen" trained in commando tactics by Pakistan army and navy instructors over 18 months from December 2006.

"The training of these 500 men was in three phases. The first was basic physical fitness and firearms training. The second was marine navigation and swimming. The third involved training to sabotage underwater installations such as oil rigs, ships and submarines," one official said.

"They were trained to a level of U.S. Seals or Pakistani marine commandos. They were elite. Ten of these men were the ones who attacked Mumbai."

Meanwhile, another AP report said yesterday that Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee denied having made any threatening call to Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai disaster.

The AP report said: India’s foreign minister denied Sunday that he had phoned Pakistan’s president at the height of the Mumbai terrorist siege, prompting its air force to go on high alert, but Pakistani officials insisted he - or someone else in his ministry - had placed the call.

Pakistani Information Minister, Sherry Rehman said President Asif Ali Zardari received a "threatening" call during the crisis that definitely came from India’s External Affairs Ministry.

She did not explicitly say the call was from the Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, but two other government officials said it was from Mukherjee. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Pakistan’s media first reported the phone call on Saturday, but described it as a hoax.

The back-and-forth over the call underscores the dangers of the poor communication and deep mistrust between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Meanwhile, India’s investigation into the attacks was running into similar theatrics, with security officials demanding the release of one of only two men arrested so far, saying he was actually a counterinsurgency police officer who may have been on an undercover mission.

Indian authorities believe the banned Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has links to the disputed Kashmir region, trained the gunmen and plotted the attacks that left 171 people dead after a three-day rampage through Mumbai that began Nov.26.

On Saturday, Pakistan’s ‘Dawn’ newspaper reported the alleged phone hoax and said it prompted Pakistan to put its air force on high alert. A security official later said a man pretending to be Mukherjee had spoken in a "threatening manner."

"I had made no such telephone call," Mukherjee said in a statement Sunday, reacting for the first time to the reports.

But Rehman said in a statement the call "was placed from a verified official phone number of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs."

Mukherjee said it was "worrying that a neighboring state might even consider acting on the basis of such a hoax call."

"I can only ascribe this series of events to those in Pakistan who wish to divert attention from the fact of an attack on India from Pakistani territory by elements in Pakistan," he said.

The statement said India found out about the call from another country - apparently from the U.S., which has been seeking to lower tensions - and had sent messages to Pakistan assuring it that no such call was made.

Pakistan says it has yet to see any proof of New Delhi’s allegations that its citizens were involved in the Mumbai attacks, but is prepared to cooperate with India. It has denied any of its state agencies were involved, noting it too is a victim of terrorism.

In the investigation, senior police officers in Indian Kashmir, which has been at the heart of tensions between India and Pakistan, demanded the release of the arrested officer, Mukhtar Ahmed, saying Saturday he was one of their own and had been involved in infiltrating Kashmiri militant groups.

The arrests, announced in the eastern city of Calcutta, were the first since the bloody siege ended. But what was touted as a rare success for India’s beleaguered law enforcement agencies quickly turned sour as police in two Indian regions squared off against one another.

The implications of Ahmed’s involvement - that Indian agents may have been in touch with the militants and perhaps supplied the cell phone SIM cards used in the attacks - added to the growing list of questions over India’s ill-trained security forces, which are widely blamed for not thwarting the attacks.

Calcutta police said the other arrested suspect, Tauseef Rahman, bought the SIM cards by using fake documents, including identification cards of dead people. The cards contain user information and are needed for cell phones operating on GSM systems, the standard in most countries. Rahman, of West Bengal state, later sold them to Ahmed, said Rajeev Kumar, a senior Calcutta police officer.

Both men were arrested Friday and charged with fraud and criminal conspiracy, Kumar said.

But the announcement had police in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, fuming.

A senior officer said Calcutta police were told that Ahmed is "our man and it’s now up to them how to facilitate his release."

He spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the information. Other police officials in Kashmir supported his account.

The senior officer said Ahmed was a Special Police Officer, part of a semiofficial counterinsurgency network whose members are usually drawn from former militants.

"Sometimes we use our men engaged in counterinsurgency ops to provide SIM cards to the (militant) outfits so that we track their plans down," said the officer.

Police said Ahmed was recruited to the force after his brother was killed five years ago, allegedly by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants for being a police informer.

About a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting in Kashmir since 1989, seeking independence from mainly Hindu India or a union with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region, which is divided between them and claimed by both.


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