WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistani territory was used to stage recent attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday, as she again urged Islamabad to help bring perpetrators to justice.
Pakistan has called for India to back up its charges of Pakistani involvement with proof. But in interviews with U.S. television networks, Rice said there was no doubt the militants behind the Mumbai attack had operated from Pakistani soil, although she said probably “non-state” actors were involved.
With Islamabad’s ties with Washington as well as with India at stake, Pakistan must take action against the militants, Rice said. Pakistan is a long-time U.S. ally that has received billions in U.S. aid to root out militant groups.
India has blamed Islamist militants based in Pakistan for the three-day assault on India’s commercial capital that killed 171 people, including six Americans.
Pakistan has condemned the attacks, denied any involvement by its state agencies and vowed full cooperation in investigations. It has called for evidence from New Delhi about any Pakistani role in the assault.
“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. They have fought three wars since independence in 1947.
“I don’t think that there is compelling evidence of involvement of Pakistani officials,” she added.
Earlier, in an interview with Fox News Sunday, Rice said that the United States had passed information about the attacks to both India and Pakistan.
“I have made it very clear (to Pakistan) that Americans also died in that attack,” said Rice, who will leave her job when President George W. Bush steps down on January 20.
“And that the United States expects the full and complete cooperation of Pakistan, and Pakistani action. And that yes, it is a matter for our relationship,” she told Fox.
ROLE OF PAKISTAN-BASED GROUP DEBATED
Mumbai police have said the gunmen were controlled by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, blamed for earlier attacks including a 2001 assault on India’s parliament. But Rice declined to say whether the U.S. thought the group was involved or to describe the evidence she cited in the attacks.
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 jihadi network sympathetic to al Qaeda and may have direct ties with the al Qaeda network.
Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday reported the only gunman captured alive came from a village in Pakistan’s Punjab. The gunman had already told Indian police he came from there. But Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and other Pakistani sources have expressed doubt he was from Pakistan.
President-elect Barack Obama said on Sunday it was important to calm tensions between India and Pakistan because the United States needed Pakistan’s help in fighting militants in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“We can’t solve Afghanistan without solving Pakistan. We are going to have to make sure that India and Pakistan are normalizing their relationship if we are going to be effective in some of other these areas,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The New York Times said on Sunday that the Bush administration was preparing to recommend that Obama’s team consider telling Pakistan that continued U.S. aid will depend on the military’s being reconfigured to effectively fight militants.
Many al Qaeda and Taliban militants fled Afghanistan to Pakistan’s border lands, which have never come under the full control of any government, after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.
Editing by David Wiessler and Cynthia Osterman