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Police Now Probing Possibility of Some Level of Indian Involvement
By Rama Lakshmi

NEW DELHI –The ongoing probe into last week’s Mumbai attacks widened late Friday night as Indian police began investigating the possibility of local support groups with the arrest of two new suspects in New Delhi and the eastern city of Calcutta.

Police arrested two men identified as Tausif Rehman,28, and Mukhtar Ahmed Sheikh, 35, for buying cell phone cards using forged documents. Officials now want to investigate whether the gunmen in Mumbai used these cards to make calls during their attacks last week.

“We are questioning them about procurement of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards used in Mumbai,” Jawed Shamim, the deputy commissioner of police in Calcutta, told news agency Reuters. Mumbai police officials had earlier traced some of the SIM cards used in the Mumbai attack to the state of West Bengal, whose capital is the city of Calcutta.

At least 174 people were killed and 230 injured when ten gunmen struck India’s financial capital of Mumbai and laid siege to two luxury hotels and one Jewish prayer center after attacking people at a restaurant and a train station.

Police on Saturday removed a bomb that was wrapped in a black plastic bag at a private hospital in Nagpur, a city 330 miles from Mumbai, after a doctor received a phone call that there would be an explosion.

Security was also heightened across India on Saturday, the 16th anniversary of the demolition of a medieval mosque by Hindu radicals in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, the epicenter of Hindu-Muslim tensions in the past decade.

According to the police, one of the suspects arrested in Calucutta, Rehman, had allegedly supplied at least 22 SIM cards to the second suspect, Sheikh, a man of Kashmiri origin. The two men were remanded to police custody until December 19th.

“Thirteen such SIM cards were bought by Tauseef which were passed on to Sheikh. Some of these cards were used by terrorists involved in the attack in Mumbai,” the public prosecutor in Calcutta, S. Pathak told the Press Trust of India.

In Mumbai, Rakesh Maria, a senior Mumbai police officer, said a dairy was found aboard the fishing trawler Kuber, which was hijacked by militants. The diary sketched out plans for November 21 to 25, just one day before the November 26 attacks and was proof, Maria said, “that there were only ten gunmen on the boat”.

The diary named 10 people and described each person’s task — some would watch out for the coast guard, others would cook, others would steer the boat. But it was clear there were 10 from the diary.”

Maria also said they were still searching in India, “for anyone here or elsewhere in India who might have aided the attackers.”

Police initially had dismissed the involvement of any Indian support network in the three-day siege, which New Delhi has accused Pakistan of aiding. But in the past three days, they have begun to look for leads that would determine evidence of Indian complicity in providing logistical help to the gunmen.

On Friday, Mumbai police decided to again question Fahim Ansari, who is in Indian custody, for his links to last week’s operation. Ansari was arrested in February this year and had told the police that he had conducted reconnaissance of several locations in Mumbai for a Pakistan-based outlawed militant group called Lashkar -i-Taiba.

The fallout of the attacks hassoured ties between India and Pakistan, the two nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in the past.

An e-mail message received by the police authorities on Thursday warned that airports across India were a target for attacks. A high alert was announced at Indian airports with several tiers of security checks added by the government.

© 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive