MUMBAI, June 23: An Indian court issued arrest warrants on Tuesday for 22 Pakistani nationals accused of masterminding last year’s deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks, including the founder of a militant group recently freed by a Pakistani court.
An Indian prosecutor demanded that Islamabad extradite all the suspects, though Pakistan has vowed that it will not transfer any Mumbai suspects to India, saying instead it will try them in its own courts.
The warrants were issued in response to a prosecutors’ motion in the ongoing trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving suspected gunman in last year’s attacks that left some 166 dead in a three-day siege.
Among those sought for arrest were Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founder of Lashkar-i-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 nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought three wars since independence. However, a court in Lahore earlier this month freed Saeed. Indian officials condemned the move.
The Indian court’s issuance of arrest warrants on Tuesday had been expected, since New Delhi has long identified the 22 suspects as terrorists. Still, the demand for extradition, which Pakistan is unlikely to meet, emphasised the animosity between the neighbours since teams of gunmen rampaged through Mumbai last November.
Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said on Tuesday 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,” Nikam told The Associated Press.
On Tuesday, Nikam told Special Judge M.L. Tahiliyani that Saeed, Lakhvi and others planned the Mumbai terror attacks and gave training to those who carried out the assault.
Pakistan has acknowledged the Mumbai attacks were partly plotted on its soil.
Judge Tahiliyani is presiding over the trial of the only surviving suspected gunman, Kasab, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in the Indian court, including waging war against the country and murder. Kasab, said to be in his early 20s, will face the death penalty if convicted.
Source: Pakistan Dawn