Pakistani authorities have decided to hold the trial of five Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives arrested in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks in a high-security jail in Rawalpindi, after learning that the outlawed group had made preparations to snatch the arrested men while they were being taken from prison to court.
The LeT has reportedly made extensive preparations for an attack to free the five operatives, including operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and communications expert Zarar Shah, and had even conducted a reconnaissance of Adiala Jail, where they are being held, diplomatic sources said.
"The LeT had done a reconnaissance and was making plans to snatch the LeT operatives while they were taken from Adiala Jail to anti-terrorism courts in Rawalpindi, where the hearings of the high-profile terror cases are usually held," a source said.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik briefed Indian diplomats some time ago about the findings of Pakistani security agencies regarding the LeT plot to free the five operatives, the sources said.
Soon after the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Lahore on March 3, some reports said the LeT might have been responsible for the assault. The reports had added that the outlawed group planned to abduct the players so that they could be exchanged for the five arrested LeT operatives.
Besides Lakhvi and Shah, the three other LeT operatives facing trial are Hamad Amin Sadiq, Abu al-Qama and Shahid Jamil Riaz, who have been accused of providing training, financial support, accommodation and equipment to the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November 2008.
The accused have been charged under the Pakistan Penal Code, Anti-Terrorism Act and a cyber crimes law.
Two other suspects arrested recently -- Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum -- are also being tried by the same court.
Judge Baqir Ali Rana, who is conducting the trial within Adiala Jail, recently imposed a media blackout on coverage of the proceedings, citing concerns about the security of witnesses and the accused.
However, the diplomatic sources said the gag order might have been issued due to concerns in the security establishment about any potentially embarrassing disclosures made by the suspects in court.
Indian officials have accused Pakistan's security establishment, including the Inter-Services Intelligence, of having close links with the LeT and its founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
Though Saeed was placed under house arrest in December 2008 after the UN Security Council declared his new group, Jamaat-ud-Dawah as a front for the LeT, he was freed by the Lahore high court in June.
India has asked Pakistan to take action against Saeed for his alleged role in masterminding and executing the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan is maintaining that the information provided so far by India is not adequate for arresting or prosecuting Saeed.