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Austria probes Pakistani terror suspect’s link to Mumbai attacks

Austrian prosecutors are probing the possibility that a Pakistani man detained for the terror attacks in Paris is linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2016 18:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai attacks,Paris Attacks,Pakistani suspect
Mumbai under attack - fire and smoke seen emerging from the Taj Hotel , one of the targets of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists during the assault on India’s financial hub in November 2008.(HT Photo)

Austrian prosecutors have said they are probing the possibility that a Pakistani man detained last year for the terror attacks in Paris is linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“Leads pointing to this are being looked into,” said a statement from the prosecutor’s office in Salzburg. It added the identity of the Pakistani suspect, who has been in custody since December in the western Austrian city, has not been confirmed.

The statement made it clear Pakistan had not responded to an Austrian request for information on the man for more than three months.

“Wide-ranging investigations on this question, among others, are ongoing, although the public prosecutors’ office has been waiting for information on this from Pakistan since December 2015,” the statement said on the issue of the suspect’s identity.

The Sunday Times, citing sources close to a multinational investigation, identified the Pakistani suspect as 34-year-old Muhammad Ghani Usman. It quoted investigators as saying that Usman was “linked to the Mumbai attacks” and had joined the Islamic State’s “plot to commit atrocities in Europe”.

The investigators said they suspected Usman was a “veteran bomb maker” for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

A senior security official in Pakistan told AFP he had no information on the suspect. “We are in completely in the dark about such a person...who he is, his identity and his affiliations,” the official said.

India has blamed LeT, which is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda, for the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. The LeJ has carried out a series of high-profile attacks targeting Pakistan’s Shia minority in recent years.

Usman’s name does not figure in several charge-sheets filed by Mumbai Police in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Senior police officials involved in the investigation of the attacks told Hindustan Times they had not come across any bomb-maker named Usman.

Usman was detained along with another suspected Islamic State fighter, 28-year-old Algerian national Adel Haddadi, The Sunday Times reported.

Officials said Usman and Haddadi apparently were on the same boat bringing migrants to Greece as two men involved in the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

French investigators suspect the IS, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and the suicide bombings in Brussels on March 22, sent Usman and Haddadi to Europe to carry out attacks.

Usman and Haddadi were arrested soon after they arrived on the Greek island of Leros on October 3 along with nearly 200 refugees after police found out that their passports were among 4,000 stolen by IS.

However, they were released on October 28 and allowed to travel to Austria, where they applied for asylum at a refugee shelter in Salzburg after the Paris attacks.

They were arrested again on December 10 when a fingerprint search linked them to the passports stolen by the IS.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Apr 12, 2016 18:24 IST