Pakistan has taken its first substantial action against the terrorist group suspected of masterminding the Mumbai attacks that left almost 200 people dead. Its army conducted a mission against a camp known to be operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Muzzafarabad in Pakistani Kashmir, capturing a number of suspects, including the suspected mastermind of the attacks:
Security forces raided a camp used by militants blamed for the Mumbai attacks and arrested more than a dozen people in Pakistan’s first known response to the assault, militants and an intelligence official said Monday.
The identities of those arrested was not immediately known, but Dawn newspaper reported one of them was Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, an alleged militant named by India as one of the masterminds of the attacks on Mumbai. The report could not be immediately verified. …
Troops exchanged fire with suspected extremists during Sunday’s raid on the camp close to the town of Muzaffarabad in the Pakistani part of the disputed Kashmir region, two militants said.
The militants said the camp was used until 2004 by Laskhar-e-Taiba to train recruits to fight Indian rule in its section of Kashmir. More recently, it was used by Lashkar’s parent organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa for education and charity work, they said, declining to give names because they belong to an illegal organization.
The US has an interest in Lakhvi as well. Intelligence has Lakhvi sending recruits and cash into Iraq in 2004 in an attempt to destabilize the country and attack American forces. The US also believes that Lakhvi helped coordinate support for jihad in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Southeast Asia.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa and LeT are similar to the Pakistani Taliban and somewhat different than al-Qaeda in the sense of their attempts to build community. Like Hamas, they enjoy more political support because of their charitable work in remote villages, and use that support for recruitment into violent, terrorist jihad. Hitting a Dawa-run village is a big risk for the Pakistani government, one that comes as a bit of a surprise.
The new civilian government in Islamabad may have little choice, however. The ISI has had ties to LeT and Dawa in the Kashmir region, using them in the past as proxy armies against India in much the same way Iran uses Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. They have no choice now but to purge the ISI of those radical elements, or wind up in a war they can’t possibly win, thanks to the Mumbai attacks. We may be seeing the opening public moves in a conflict between the ISI and the Gilani government and perhaps also the Pakistani army.
The key will be whether Pakistan extradites Lakhvi to India. If that happens, expect an explosion of violence, and some of it from within the Pakistani government. If not, India will have to respond itself, and then all hell will break loose.