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India Claims Calcutta Gunmen Connected to Sept. 11 Attacks

By Paul Watson
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- NEW DELHI, India

Yoking its own fight against extremists to Washington’s war on terror, India charged Tuesday that gunmen who attacked a U.S. cultural center in Calcutta belong to a kidnapping ring that local police suspect used ransom payments to help bankroll the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Indian officials also claimed that the people behind Tuesday’s early morning assault, which killed five Indian police guards, could have links to Pakistan’s military intelligence and two Pakistan-based groups fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

No U.S. citizens were killed or injured in the attack near the U.S. Information Service building, which is near the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta.

Pakistan’s government dismissed the Indian allegation as “baseless.”

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has won strong international praise for a crackdown on Islamic extremists, but India insists that the Pakistani general, who took power in a bloodless 1999 coup, hasn’t done enough to stop what New Delhi calls cross-border terrorism.

The alleged connection between kidnappers in Calcutta and the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history may be difficult to prove. The man who claimed the link, accused kidnapping ringleader Asif Raza Khan, was shot dead by police Dec. 7. They said he was trying to escape.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, in New Delhi on a previously scheduled visit to meet Indian leaders and discuss cooperation in counter-terrorism, said it was too early to lay blame.

“I understand that there have been claims of responsibility for the attack,” he said. “I also understand that the investigation is ongoing, and my experience shows that making particular comments about what occurred eight hours ago is premature.

“I have to wait to see what the facts bear out to see responsibility and motivation for the attack. I am unaware of specific information in recent days relating to attacks on particular (U.S.) facilities,” the FBI director told a news conference.

In Washington, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity that they don’t believe the incident was an anti-American terrorist attack, noting that no Americans were present at the center when the killings occurred.

Describing Tuesday’s attack, police in Calcutta said a passenger on a motorcycle pulled an AK-47 assault rifle from underneath a shawl and opened fire on the building’s security detail during a shift change. At least one gunman in a car also fired, Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani said.

Several passersby and security guards from a private firm were among 20 people wounded in the drive-by assault, Advani said. The attackers escaped.