Praveen Swami

Mueller hopes to persuade Pakistan to give access to suspects

NEW DELHI: Federal Bureau of Investigations chief Robert Mueller is due to leave New Delhi for Islamabad on Wednesday, on a mission to persuade Pakistan to grant his organisation access to suspects held in Pakistan for their role in the November 26 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai.

Mr. Mueller on Monday met with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, as well as top officials of the Intelligence Bureau, in New Delhi ahead of his journey to Pakistan. Government sources said the Mr. Mueller and his Indian counterparts discussed the status of the Mumbai investigation, but did not disclose the details of the talks.

The FBI investigators hope to speak to Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, the Lashkar’s overall military commander, who was among eight attack-linked suspects Pakistan said it had arrested last month.

Among those the FBI also hopes to question is Mazhar Iqbal, a Lashkar operative hailing from the Mandi tehsil of Pakistan’s Punjab province, who is believed to have overall responsibility for operations targeting India outside of Jammu and Kashmir.

Known by the aliases Abu al-Kama and Amjad, Iqbal has been named by Indian investigators as a suspect in a string of high-profile cases, including the December 2000, fidayeen attack on the Red Fort in New Delhi, the September 2002 assault on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, and the serial bombing of the national capital in October 2005.

In addition, the FBI has sought access to Sheikhupura district resident Abdul Wajid, who directed the Mumbai fidayeen’s operations throughout the assault.

Wajid — who has become widely known by his alias Zarar Shah — is alleged by Maharashtra prosecutors to have used voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) connections to speak to the fidayeen.

Payments for the VOIP services, investigators have found, were made on Wajid’s behalf by Lashkar field operatives in Karachi and Barcelona.

Interestingly, the sources said Pakistan has not detained a Lashkar operative so far identified only by the aliases Yusuf and Muzammil. ‘Yusuf’, who is believed to be Iqbal’s deputy, has been charged by the Mumbai prosecutors with having trained and guided the fidayeen.