Some serving and ex-military officers are among five people arrested in Pakistan in connection with the LeT plot to carry out a major terror attack in India using American national David Coleman Headley, a media report said on Thursday .
"Pakistani authorities had arrested as many as five other people in connection with the (Lashkar-e-Toiba) plot in recent weeks, including some former or current Pakistani military officials," the New York Times reported.
The paper quoted an official, who has been briefed on the investigation, as saying that those arrested remain in custody, but it was unclear what role they played in the expanding plot. Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, who were arrested last month by FBI are accused of plotting terror attacks on behest of LeT against India and a Danish newspaper.
"The arrests of Headley and Rana have widened into a global terrorism inquiry that has led to arrests in Pakistan and implicated a former Pakistani military officer as a co-conspirator," the paper quoted officials as saying.
The American intelligence officials believe that some Pakistani military and intelligence officials even encourage terrorists to attack what they see as Pakistan's enemies, including targets in India, it said. Headley and Rana were accused in the FBI complaints of reporting to Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistani military officer who has become a militant commander associated with both al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The case is one of the first criminal cases in which the federal authorities seem to have directly linked terrorism suspects in the US to a former Pakistani military officer, though they have long suspected connections between extremists and many members of the Pakistani military, the paper said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, however, declined to comment on the arrests, citing the continuing inquiry.
Headley, according to the FBI charge sheet, was being used by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to target among others the National Defence College in New Delhi.
The officials, who asked not to be identified because they were discussing a continuing inquiry, said that the FBI investigation has widened further in part because of the wealth of information supplied by Headley, the paper said.
The officials declined to name the other Pakistani military officer -- who held the rank of colonel or brigadier general before leaving the army recently -- in the case, who is suspected as a co-conspirator, the NYT said.
"The officer was arrested earlier this past summer in Pakistan on unspecified charges and later released. However, another official said that the officer was discharged only after his associates pressured the Pakistani authorities to free him," it said.
In the complaints against Headley and Rana, the officer is identified as an uncharged conspirator by the letters 'A' and 'B'. The complaints describe him as "associated with Kashmiri, as well as with Lashkar-e-Toiba."
Both Headley and Rana are graduates of a military academy in the town of Hasan Abdal in Pakistan's Punjab province, and they maintained e-mail contact with other former students, including officers in Pakistan's military, the NYT said.
American officials said the case involving Headley and Rana reflected a new and evolving pattern of individual militants with different backgrounds and experience, rather than terrorist groups, teaming up to plot and carry out attacks, the paper said.
"It's moving beyond the mainline activities of individual groups to elements of various militant groups or terrorist organisations that have spent time together, have fought together, may be trained together, that now have associations with certain facilitators that now come together to plan and execute attacks," it quoted a Defence Department official as saying.
"The present and future is less about individual groups conducting attacks, and more about combinations of individuals, and groups and facilitators that come together," said the official.
The official said that Kashmiri was a prime example of this new kind of operator. Kashmiri, a former Pakistani special operations commando, has extensive contacts with Kashmiri terrorist groups as well as with al-Qaeda. PTI