Pakistani Taliban threaten to target India after execution of Mumbai attacker
The Pakistani Taliban vowed Thursday to carry out attacks against India to avenge the death of a man executed by Indian authorities for his role in the 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani, was hanged Wednesday in Pune, a city southeast of Mumbai. He was the lone surviving gunman from the attacks in India’s financial capital in November 2008 that killed more than 160 people.
Ihsanullah Ihsan, the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said the militant group would conduct various attacks in India in response to the execution. He didn’t provide further details.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are closely linked with their namesake in Afghanistan and with al Qaeda, operate in the ungoverned area that sits on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
India has requested extra protection for its diplomats in Pakistan following the execution, said J.P. Singh, an official at India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
He said the ministry had no immediate comment on the threat from the Taliban.
The Taliban spokesman said they are demanding that Kasab’s body be returned to Pakistan for an Islamic burial. He criticized the Pakistani government, saying it had failed by not requesting the return of the body.
Indian authorities said Wednesday that Kasab had been buried in the “surrounding area” of the jail where he was hanged. They didn’t say what kind of burial rites had been performed.
The Pakistani government has so far barely commented on the execution. The foreign ministry declined to give an immediate reaction Thursday to the Taliban’s criticism.
India blamed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani-based terror group allied with al Qaeda, for the Mumbai siege.
Indian authorities said Kasab was trained by the organization, which was banned in Pakistan in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament. The group has denied responsibility.
The Mumbai attacks destabilized peace talks between the Indian and Pakistani governments, which remain bitterly opposed over issues such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
Since then, the two nuclear-armed nations have resumed the high-level meetings and relations have improved.
In April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi during a brief private trip. It was the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years.
Indian sporting authorities also this year announced the resumption of bilateral cricket tournaments with Pakistan. The sport has often been used as a platform to ease relations.
But tensions remain close to the surface. In August, New Delhi alleged that “elements” in Pakistan were using social-networking sites to stir religious unrest in India amid ethnic clashes between Muslim migrants and native tribal groups in the northeastern state of Assam.
News of Kasab’s death was positively received Wednesday by many Indians. The conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, the country’s main opposition party, expressed support for the government’s decision to go ahead with the execution.
“It’s a strong message that India does not and will not tolerate terrorism,” said Prakash Javadekar, a party spokesman.
But human rights activists criticized the move.
“The hanging of Ajmal Kasab marks a distressing end to India’s moratorium on executions and is a step backwards for India’s justice system,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. “The government should take prompt and decisive action toward a total abolition of capital punishment.”
The last state execution in the country was in 2004, when a man was hanged for the rape and murder of a teenage girl.