ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces on Sunday raided a camp used by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), two sources said, in a strike against the militant group blamed by India for last month’s deadly attacks on Mumbai.
Local man Nisar Ali told Reuters the operation began in the afternoon in Shawai on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani side of disputed Kashmir region.
“I don’t know details as the entire area was sealed off, but I heard two loud blasts in the evening after a military helicopter landed there,” Ali said.
An official with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity, which is linked to LeT, said security forces had taken over the camp.
India has demanded Pakistan take swift action over what it says is the latest anti-India militant attack emanating from Pakistani soil. No comment on the raid was immediately available from Indian officials.
At least 171 people were killed during the three-day assault last month across Mumbai, India’s financial capital, which has imperilled the improving ties between the south Asian nuclear rivals.
Mumbai police have said the gunmen were controlled by the Pakistan-based LeT group blamed for earlier attacks including a 2001 assault on India’s parliament that nearly sparked the two countries’ fourth war since independence from Britain in 1947.
LeT was formed with the help of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to fight Indian rule in Kashmir, but analysts say it is now part of a global Islamist militant scene. They say it is sympathetic to, and may have direct ties with, al Qaeda.
Pakistani territory was used to stage the attacks on Mumbai, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday, again urging Islamabad to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
“I think there’s no doubt that Pakistani territory was used, by probably non-state actors,” Rice told CNN’s “Late Edition.”
She has just returned from a trip to the region to urge cooperation between the old enemies India and Pakistan.
“I don’t think that there is compelling evidence of involvement of Pakistani officials,” she added.
India’s foreign minister had earlier accused Pakistan of trying to dodge blame over the Mumbai attacks’ Pakistani origins by leaking a story about a hoax call to Pakistan’s president that set off diplomatic panic.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported on Saturday that Pakistan had put its forces on high alert after a caller pretending to be Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee threatened President Asif Ali Zardari while the attacks were still going on.
Police in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan have fought for six decades, said on Sunday that one of two men arrested on Friday for helping get mobile phone cards to the gunmen had recently been hired as a constable.
“We are investigating whether he was on an undercover operation,” a top Kashmir police officer said on condition of anonymity. The man, Mukhtar Ahmed, had worked for years as an informal anti-militant informant, the officer said.
An LeT-linked man suspected of reconnoitring Mumbai well before the attacks has been in custody since February in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, police Special Task Force chief Brij Lal told Reuters.
The disclosure about Faim Ansari, a 26-year-old native of Mumbai, was the first evidence to emerge of Indian complicity in the attacks.