Senior Pakistani officials have told two U.S. news outlets that a militant leader arrested in Pakistan has confessed to involvement in the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
Two reports quote unidentified Pakistani officials as saying captured militant Zarar Shah has acknowledged helping plan the attacks and has given interrogators details about how they were carried out.
The confession was first reported in "The Wall Street Journal" newspaper and later confirmed by the Associated Press news agency. They did not identify any of the government and intelligence officials involved. Shah has been identified as a leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the Mumbai attacks that killed more than 170 people. Pakistani authorities arrested him earlier this month, along with another of the group's suspected leaders, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, amid intense international pressure to crack down on the movement after the Mumbai attacks.
Both news outlets quote an official who say Shah "is singing" (giving up information). They also say the disclosure may increase international pressure on Pakistan to publicly accept that the attacks originated within its borders.
The office of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says he told U.S. President George Bush in a phone call today, Wednesday that "anyone found involved in such attacks from Pakistani territory will be dealt with sternly." India says the gunmen who attacked Mumbai were Pakistanis trained and equipped by Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has in the past had close ties to Pakistani intelligence services. Pakistan says India has failed to provide evidence of the attackers' nationalities.
In the wake of the attacks, tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have reached the highest level in years. India's home minister, P. Chidambaram, told reporters in New Delhi today that Pakistan "is in a state of denial" about the involvement of its citizens in the attacks.
The White House says President Bush telephoned both the Pakistani leader and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, urging them to cooperate with each other in the Mumbai investigation and on counterterrorism in general. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Crawford, Texas, that all three leaders "agreed that no one wanted to take any steps that unnecessarily raise tensions."