India demands Pakistan hand over 22 Mumbai suspects

India today demanded the arrest of 22 Pakistanis it accused of masterminding last year’s Mumbai terrorist attacks.

India today demanded the arrest of 22 Pakistanis it accused of masterminding last year’s Mumbai terrorist attacks.

A prosecutor demanded that Islamabad extradite all the suspects, although Pakistan has vowed that it will not hand over any suspects but will try them in its own courts.

The warrants were issued by an Indian court after a request from prosecutors in the continuing trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman from last year’s attacks that left 166 dead in a three-day siege.

Among those wanted were Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founder of the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba – which India blames for the launching attacks – and Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, two leaders of the group.

Pakistan arrested all three in December after Indian diplomats provided a dossier of evidence in a rare sharing of intelligence between the countries.

However, a court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore earlier this month freed Saeed, a hard-line Islamic cleric, saying there was no evidence against him. Indian officials condemned the move.

India says the 10 gunmen were Pakistanis and that their handlers in Pakistan kept in touch with them by phone during the three-day assault on 10 sites including two five-star hotels and a Jewish centre.

Indian officials have also accused Pakistani intelligence agents of involvement in the attacks.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said today that the warrants would be handed to Interpol to deliver to the Pakistan government for extradition.

“We want the suspects to be sent to India to stand trial. There is sufficient evidence to prosecute them in India,” he said.

Pakistan has admitted the Mumbai attacks were partly plotted on its soil.

Saeed set up Lashkar in the 1980s with the blessing of Pakistan’s intelligence services, and the group has a long and bloody history of guerrilla warfare and bombings aimed at Indian rule in Kashmir, which is claimed by both Pakistan and India.

Pakistan banned Lashkar in 2002 during a crackdown on militant groups that followed the September 11 attacks, under pressure from Washington, which considers it a terrorist group.

Saeed is currently chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organisation he says is a charity to help impoverished and disaster-stricken Pakistanis. The United Nations has designated the group a front Lashkar-e-Taiba and says it is a terrorist group in its own right.

Abdur Rehman Makki, a close Saeed aide, rejected the Indian warrant, saying the Lahore High Court had already decided there was no evidence to prove Saeed was involved in the Mumbai attack.

Handing Saeed to India for trial was “out of the question,” he said.

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