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NEW DELHI, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Three of the militants who attacked India’s financial capital have confessed they are members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, the Hindu newspaper reported on Friday.
Indian newspapers squarely blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the largest Islamist militant groups in South Asia, for the attacks that killed more than 100 people and wounded more than 300 which began late on Wednesday.
Indian commandos were still battling to flush out militants in several pockets on Friday, including two luxury hotels.
Lashkar-e-Taiba denied on Thursday it had any role in the attacks, which also targeted a popular cafe, a Jewish centre and the city’s main railway.
But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the assault was carried out by groups based outside India, usually an allusion to India’s nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan.
One of the militants was a resident of Faridkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province, the Hindu newspaper said, citing unidentified police investigators.
“Based on the interrogation of the suspects, the investigators believe that one or more groups of Lashkar operatives left Karachi in a merchant ship early on Wednesday,” the newspaper said.
It said the group came ashore at Mumbai on a small boat and then split up into small teams to attack multiple locations.
The Indian Express newspaper said the group left the Pakistani port city of Karachi by sea and transferred to two small boats or rubber dinghies off Mumbai.
They were seen by several residents coming ashore but allayed suspicion by saying they were students, it said.
The Times of India said the attackers were aged between 18 and 25. Each was given “an AK-47 assault rifle with two magazines each, one pistol and eight to 10 grenades suspected to have manufactured at a Pakistan ordnance factory” it said.
“The equipment, training and sophistication of their planning would tend to indicate a Pakistani link,” wrote strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam in the Times of India.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, along with another group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, made its name fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, where state elections are underway.
Both groups were closely linked in the past to the Pakistani military’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.
They were also blamed for an attack on India’s parliament in 2001 which brought the two countries close to a fourth war since independence from Britain 60 years ago.
“The possibility of rogue elements in ISI and jihadi elements in Pakistan conspiring to create tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad cannot be ruled out,” Subrahmanyam wrote.
Singh did not specifically name Pakistan, which has condemned the attacks and promised full cooperation.
“We will take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them,” Singh said in a televised address. (Reporting by C.J. Kuncheria; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Paul Tait)