NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba which is blamed by India for the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, may have been present in a Pakistani “control room” where the attacks were coordinated, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Friday.
Indian authorities have long viewed Hafiz Saeed as the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. In April the United States announced a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Although Islamabad did not react to the charges on Friday, it previously has rejected Indian allegations of any involvement and said it has acted against the members of Lashkar-e-Taiba accused of mounting the raid.
Chidambaram told reporters that questioning of Sayeed Zabiuddin Ansari, the Indian suspected of helping plot the operation, had revealed the existence of the control room and suggested it had state support.
“Yes, others were also present and we think one of them was Hafiz Saeed,” Chidambaram said when asked if the group’s founder had been in the room at the time.
Ansari, an alleged key plotter of the attacks, was arrested in New Delhi on June 21 as he arrived from Saudi Arabia.
The police have accused him of training the 10 militants who went on a rampage in India’s financial hub.
Ansari, who also went by the names Abu Hamza, Abu Jindal and Abu Jundal, was present in the “control room”, located in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, newspapers, citing intelligence sources, said on Wednesday.
“His interrogations now prove beyond doubt the existence of such a control room,” Chidambaram said. “Such a control room could not have been established without some kind of a state support.”
The Mumbai attacks served to further strain the already fragile relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars in the past 65 years.
Reporting By Satarupa Bhattacharjya, Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Michael Roddy