WASHINGTON (AP) - The government ordered FBI agents Friday to
fly to India to investigate the bloody Mumbai attacks that killed two American travelers and a former New York couple. U.S. citizens
still in the city were warned their lives remain at risk.
Intelligence officials looked urgently for clues about the identify of the attackers, a crucial unknown as Indian officials charged, without giving details, that "elements in Pakistan" were involved. A tentative rapprochement between the two nuclear-armed rivals could hang in the balance, and a U.S. counterintelligence official cautioned against rushing to judgment on the origins of the militants.
President George W. Bush pledged cooperation with Indian authorities and mourned the deaths of more than 150 people at the hands of gunmen who attacked targets across India's financial capital starting Wednesday night.
"My administration has been working with the Indian government and the international community as Indian authorities work to ensure the safety of those still under threat," he said. "We will continue to cooperate against these extremists who offer nothing but violence and hopelessness. "
A U.S. counterterrorism official said it was premature "to reach any hard-and-fast conclusions on who may be responsible for the attacks." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said "some of the signatures of the attack" were consistent with the work of militants who have fought against India in the disputed Kashmir region.
U.S. officials were working out the final details with Indian diplomats Friday for the departure of an FBI team, U.S. authorities said. A second group of investigators was on alert to join the first team if necessary.
The investigators aim to learn more about the militants who carried out the lethal strikes on luxury hotels, a train station and an Orthodox Jewish center where a rabbi and his wife, who had moved to Mumbai from New York, were among five hostages slain. An American and his teenage daughter traveling with a Virginia-based spiritual group were also among those killed during the coordinated attacks.
"Americans are still at risk on the ground" in Mumbai on Friday, the State Department said Friday, warning citizens not to travel to the stricken city at least through the weekend.
U.S. officials were checking with Indian authorities and hospitals to learn more about the extent of casualties.
In New York, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement confirmed Friday that Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were among those
killed in the terrorist assault on the ultraconservative group's Mumbai headquarters.
A spokeswoman for a meditation group in Virginia said two Americans traveling with the organization in Mumbai also were killed. Bobbie Garvey, speaking for the Synchronicity Foundation, based in Faber, Va., identified the two slain members as Alan Scherr, 58, and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi.
State Department spokesman Robert McInturff said U.S. officials have activated a phone tree to contact American citizens who registered with the U.S. consulate in Mumbai.
Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said in a statement that his country is "confronting the menace of terrorism with great vigor." Haqqani insisted "it is unfair to blame Pakistan or Pakistanis for these acts of terrorism even before an investigation is undertaken."
President-elect Barack Obama has spoken by telephone with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the attacks and received several intelligence briefings, State Department officials said.
The State Department set up a call center for Americans concerned about family members who may be in Mumbai. The number is 1-888-407-4747.
AP reporters Matthew Lee, Pamela Hess and Sharon Theimer in
Washington, Tom Breen in Richmond, Va., and Juanita Cousins in
Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)