December 4, NY Times

LAHORE, Pakistan — Mounting evidence of links between the Mumbai terrorist attacks and a Pakistani militant group is posing the stiffest test so far of Pakistan’s new government, raising questions whether it can — or wants to — rein in militancy here.

President Asif Ali Zardari says his government has no concrete evidence of Pakistani involvement in the attacks, and American officials have not established a direct link to the government. But as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Thursday morning, pressure was building on the government to confront the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which Indian and American officials say carried out the Mumbai attacks.

Though officially banned, the group has hidden in plain sight for years. It has had a long history of ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The evidence of its hand in the Mumbai attacks is accumulating from around the globe:

¶A former Defense Department official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that American intelligence analysts suspect that former officers of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency and its army helped train the Mumbai attackers.

¶According to the Indian police, the one gunman who survived the terrorist attacks, Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, 21, told his interrogators that he trained during a year and half in at least four camps in Pakistan and at one met with Mohammad Hafeez Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader.

¶And according to a Western official familiar with the investigation in Mumbai, another Lashkar leader, Yusuf Muzammil, whom the surviving gunman named as the plot’s organizer, fielded phone calls in Lahore from the attackers.

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photo: A Pakistani in Islamabad on Wednesday shouted slogans against the United States and India (Anjum Naveed/Associated Press).