Mumbai toll to top 300: authorities

The death toll from the Mumbai massacre continues to climb, inching toward 200 with a final tally to exceed 300 according to Indian authorities:

Piles of bodies were found yesterday after commandos stormed the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the last of three buildings that terrorists had occupied in the city. Three terrorists were killed in the battle.

The end to four days of carnage came as tensions grew between India and Pakistan over the atrocity.

It is believed that just 10 highly-trained terrorists took part in the attack. Nine were killed and one suspect is under arrest.

British and Indian authorities were yesterday playing down reports that some of the attackers were British, although this had not been comprehensively ruled out.

The Sunday Telegraph was given the details of a secret interrogation report based on an interview with the surviving terrorist. The 19-year-old suspect, who lived near the Pakistani city of Multan, is said to have joined Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Islamist fundamentalist group, a year ago. He is alleged to have confessed that he received weapons instruction at a training camp in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The plot is said to have been planned from there. A group then made a reconnaissance of Bombay earlier this year.

India believes a Pakistani merchant ship was used to transport some, or all, of the terrorists before they seized control of a fishing trawler to reach Mumbai (Bombay). The final leg of their journey was completed in inflatable boats.

Pakistan called an emergency cabinet meeting after announcing that it would not send the country's secret service chief to New Delhi. The Indian government had demanded the head of the ISI travel in person to respond to questions.

As the incredible details of the plot emerge, how it was carried out, the horrific nature of the slaughter, and the dramatic testimony of survivors is reported, the question of just how involved Pakistan was in the plot and its execution remains up in the air.

What intelligence agencies think they've discovered is that the terrorists were in constant contact with someone or several someones in Pakistan. A cellphone found on one of the dead terrorists shows several calls to a location or locations inside Pakistan (GPS indicator in the phone confirms it) and it is pretty certain that the terrorists launched the mission from the Pakistani port city of Karachi using a fishing boat to get close to the city and then landing in inflatable boats.

But the question has to be asked isn't this just a little too convenient to find all this information? Might the terrorists be engaging in a little disinformation to have the finger pointed at Pakistan when others might have been involved?

The terrorists believed they were going to die and they must have known that everything found by the authorities would be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Could some of the information being gathered have been planted to throw authorities off the track or, more likely, stir up a lot of trouble between India and Pakistan?

For this reason, the Indian government is being very cautious about directly blaming the Pakistani government for the atrocity. With some in India actually calling for war or some kind of military strike on Pakistani territory, the government has to deal with rising nationalist fervor, a looming election, and the fact that they really aren't sure what happened or how it happened yet.

On top of that, Pakistan has withdrawn its offer of sending their intelligence chief to India. What makes this significant is that it was the civilian government that first offered to send the ISI chief to Mumbai which was then nixed when the miliary objected. So in addition to all the other worries about this attack, we now have to wonder about the Pakistani military which has carried out 3 coups in the last 25 years against the elected civilian government. In a democracy, the civilians usually tell the military what to do, not vice versa.

There appears to be no military moves on the part of India at this point, which is good news. But it wouldn't take much to have hostilities resume - especially in the disputed province of Kashmir - if further investigation revealed the hand of the Pakistani ISI in planning or carrying out the attack.