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India issues warrants for 22 Pakistanis

AN Indian court issued arrest warrants yesterday for 22 Pakistani nationals accused of masterminding last year's deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks, including the founder of an Islamist militant group recently freed by a Pakistani court.

An Indian prosecutor demanded that Islamabad extradite all the suspects, though Pakistan has vowed that it will not transfer any Mumbai suspects to India, saying instead it will try them in its own courts.

The warrants were issued in response to a prosecutors' motion in the ongoing trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving suspected gunman in last year's attacks that left around 166 dead in a three-day siege.

Kasab has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in the Indian court, including waging war against the country and murder. Kasab, said to be in his early 20s, will face the death penalty if convicted.

Among those sought for arrest were Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, founder of the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba - which India blames for launching the attacks - and Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, two leaders of the group.

Pakistan arrested all three in December after Indian diplomats provided a dossier of evidence in a sharing of intelligence between the two nations.

However, a court in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore earlier this month freed Saeed, a hard-line Islamic cleric, saying there was no evidence against him.

Indian officials condemned the move.

The Indian court's issuance of arrest warrants had been expected, since New Delhi has long identified the 22 as suspects in the Mumbai attacks.

New Delhi says the 10 gunmen - only one of whom was captured alive - were Pakistanis and that their handlers in Pakistan kept in touch with them by phone during the three-day assault on 10 sites including two five-star hotels.


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