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India Blames Pakistan for Parliament Attack - 2001-12-18

India has blamed Pakistan for sponsoring Muslim separatist groups which New Delhi says carried out last week's suicide attack on parliament. Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani says the country is determined to stamp out terrorism.

In the first extensive statement to lawmakers on the attack on Indian Parliament, the home minister called it the "most audacious act of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in India," and said security forces averted what he called a "national catastrophe."

"Last week's attack on parliament is undoubtedly the most audacious and also the most alarming act of terrorism in the nearly two decade-long history of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India," he said. "This time, the terrorists and their mentors had the temerity to try and wipe out the entire political leadership of India, as represented in our multi-party parliament." The home minster repeated allegations that the attack on parliament was conducted by the Lakshar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad - two hardline Islamic separatist groups waging an armed insurgency in Indian Kashmir.

He says both these groups are sponsored and supported by Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and that terrorism in India is their "handiwork."

Pakistani officials have denied the Indian allegations and say India has provided no evidence to support its claims.

13 people were killed in the attack, including the five gunmen who led the assault.

Mr. Advani did not say how India would respond to the attack, but he repeated tough statements that have been made by senior leaders in New Delhi since the assault, saying New Delhi will crush terrorism. "Those behind the attack on Parliament House should know that the Indian people are united and determined to stamp out terrorism from the country," he said. Before parliament met, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told lawmakers that New Delhi is waiting for Pakistan's response. Indian officials have asked Islamabad to crack down on the Lakshar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad groups.

Many hardline members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party want security forces to attack what officials in New Delhi say are terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir. Some opposition lawmakers are also demanding "tough action." Both armies of the nuclear-capable neighbors are on alert along the military line of control in Kashmir.

The United States has asked the South Asian rivals not to let the situation get out of control, and urged the two countries to go after the terrorist organizations and not at each other.