Pakistani security forces have arrested operational commander of a banned group, blamed by India for Mumbai attacks, local press reports said Monday.
India has blamed "Lashkar-e-Taiba" for attacks in its commercial center, which killed nearly 180 people and injured over 300.
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi speaks during a rally in this picture taken April 21, 2008. [Xinhua/Reuters]
Lashkar-e-Taiba is using new name "Jamaat-ud-Daawa" after it was banned in 2002.
Zaki-ur-Rehamn Lakhvi, chief operational commander of the group, was arrested during a crackdown launched by the Pakistani army near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Sunday, according to the private Geo TV.
The survived attacker of the Mumbai operation has reportedly told Indian investigators that Lakhvi had sent them for the attacks.
"The Pakistani security forces have raided our camp and have arrested some of our activists," an official of the group was quoted as saying.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any hand in the Mumbai attacks.
The reports quoted sources as saying that the security forces launched crackdown against the group in the Showai area, some five kilometers from Muzaffarabad, Sunday afternoon.
There has been no response from the government.
A source of the group said that the security forces first ordered the Lashkar members to surrender but they refused to accept the demand, which prompted action by the forces.
Candles and flowers placed for victims of the Mumbai attacks are seen in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai November 30, 2008.[Xinhua/Reuters]
"A military helicopter also shelled areas near the camp and the Lashkar men also opened fire in the air," a Lashkar representative said.
There are unconfirmed reports of injuries on both sides.
Some activists of the Lashkar have already moved to safe places to avoid possible arrests, the Lashkar representative said, adding that the government seemed to be under tremendous pressure for such action.
"If the situation turns bad, the Lashkar leadership may hand over some people to the government of Pakistan," he said.
Witnesses in Muzaffarabad say that they have seen an army helicopter and also heard some explosions. Around a dozen army vehicles were seen returning from the Lashkar camp, they said.
Firefighters douse a blaze at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai November 29, 2008. [Xinhua/Reuters]
Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is chairing a meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet Monday to discuss the current situation in the country, an official statement said.
Pakistan is under pressure to take action against the group suspected to be behind the attacks and US Senator John McCain, who was the presidential candidate, said in his visit to Pakistan that the government would take action in days.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday asked Pakistan to take action against the suspects, saying that there was evidence to suggest that people living in Pakistan were involved in the recent attacks in Mumbai.
(Xinhua News Agency December 9, 2008)