Pakistan-tied gang blamed in fatal attack

4 police officers shot dead at U.S. building in Calcutta


NEW DELHI, India - Indian officials reportedly said a criminal gang with links to Pakistan's main intelligence agency claimed responsibility for an attack by four men on motorcycles who fired automatic rifles at police guarding a U.S. government building in Calcutta, India, Tuesday morning, killing four police officers.

Indian police said 12 other police officers, a security guard and a pedestrian were injured, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington.

All of those killed and injured were Indians. No Americans were present at the center, which houses various U.S. offices.

The U.S. government center and consulate, located on one of Calcutta's largest and busiest downtown streets, has been the scene of many anti-American protests over the years.

There were no immediate arrests. The Times of India quoted an unidentified Indian Home Ministry official as saying that a United Arab Emirates-based criminal with links to Pakistani intelligence said his group was responsible and threatened more attacks.

In Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Khan said allegations that implicated Pakistan's government in the shootings were "simply baseless."

The Times of India report said Farhan Malik, who is linked to the Harkat-ul Jihad-e Islami, a Pakistan-based Islamic group fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir, made the assertions in a telephone call to Indian authorities. It said the Indian official said Malik was issued a Pakistani passport in March 2000 "and was directed to establish a covert network in India to carry out terrorist operations."

The Indian newspaper said Malik allegedly organized the recent kidnapping of a Calcutta businessman for a $780,000 ransom.

Indian news media also reported that $100,000 of the ransom money was used to finance Mohammed Atta, who is believed to have been the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The reports said the money was sent by Omar Sheikh, a British national who is a leader of Harkat-ul Jihad-e-Islami.

Until recently, Pakistani officials have described Harkat-ul Jihad-e-Islami as freedom fighters trying to end India's rule over two-thirds of Kashmir. As a result of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's recent crackdown on Islamic militants, however, Harkat-ul Jihad-e-Islami has been put under "observation," an indication it soon might be banned.

The threat of war between India and Pakistan has loomed in recent weeks as both countries have shifted hundreds of thousands of troops to their 1,800-mile border. India initiated the buildup after a Dec. 13 suicide assault on its Parliament in which 14 people were killed, including five attackers.

India demands Pakistan turn over some suspects. Pakistan also has announced that it will present India with a list of terrorists that it wants extradited.

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