Mumbai attackers had list of 320 potential targets worldwide
February 19, 2009
Mumbai attackers had hit list of 320 world targets
Lashkar-e-Taiba ringleaders had ambitions well beyond causing mayhem in India, the Guardian has learned
Azam Amir Kasab, one of the Mumbai attackers, filmed on CCTV inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station in Mumbai. Photograph: Reuters
The plotters behind the Mumbai attack, which left more than 170 people dead, had placed India's financial capital on a list of 320 worldwide locations as potential targets for commando-style terror strikes, the Guardian has learned.
It suggests that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the outlawed terror group that planned much of the attack from Pakistan, had ambitions well beyond causing mayhem in India.
Western intelligence agencies have accessed the computer and email account of Lashkar's communications chief, Zarar Shah, and found a list of possible targets, only 20 of which were in India.
Two of the November 2008 attack's key planners – Shah and Lashkar's operations chief, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi – are now in police custody in Pakistan.
Islamabad's decision to bring criminal charges against nine men accused of involvement in the Mumbai attack has partly placated Indian officials. But officials in New Delhi have been warning that they want to see people brought to justice for terrorist acts.
"If the west can prosecute people for crimes against humanity in The Hague or use rendition to interrogate them in undisclosed locations then what is stopping them now? After all, [western] citizens were killed in Mumbai too," an official said.
The US has been trying behind the scenes to co-ordinate intelligence exchanges between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The CIA has worked hard to be seen to help New Delhi – including by recovering phone numbers deleted by the terrorists on their satellite phones.
The fallout from Mumbai has destabilised the government of Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, which is attempting to face down Islamist groups his predecessors cultivated.
Intelligence agencies have warned that Mumbai raises the spectre of a new style of terrorist assault. The city of 19 million people was brought to a halt by 10 heavily armed gunmen rampaging through restaurants and hotels for three days.
Nine of the gunmen were killed – but the lone survivor has given Indian investigators a full confession that the assault was planned in Pakistan by Lashkar, a militant group that originally began an armed campaign against the Indian army in Kashmir.
There has been some speculation that raids in Spain which netted 12 men – an Indian and 11 Pakistanis – were a result of the investigations into Lashkar's role in the Mumbai attacks.
The dozen men were reportedly picked up for forging passports and other travel documents for terror organisations, including al-Qaida. Pakistan's government has said the Mumbai attacks were partly planned from Spain.
Analysts say the computer list is more of a statement of intent because Lashkar would need time to set up terrorist cells in so many places.
"Lashkar is an increasingly prominent terrorist group within the jihadi community but I am sceptical of it being able to act globally and extensively on its own," said Maria Kuusisto, an analyst covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Eurasia Group, a political consultancy in London.