A Pakistani militant, arrested in connection with the March massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpura in Kashmir, has admitted to his being a member of the killers's team and his affiliation to the Pakistan-based Lashkar e Taiyba terrorist group.

Suhail Malik of Sialkot, interviewed by a New York Times correspondent in an Indian prison, has said he had no regret that he participated in the massacre, which coincided with US President Bill Clinton's visit to India. Malik said he had opened fire because he had been ordered to do so by his commanders and that he knew nothing about the plot to kill the Sikhs until he stood in an orchard where the 35 people were killed.

"I used my weapons when commanded... We are told what to do and not why. Afterwards, we were told not to talk about it," 18-year-old Malik said. "The Koran teaches us not to kill innocents. (But) if Lashkar e Taiyba told us to kill those people (Sikhs), then it was right to do it. I have no regrets," he added.

He said in the NYT interview that "when I was sent here from Pakistan, I was told the Indian army kills Muslims. It treats them badly and burns their mosques and refuses to let them pray. They must be freed from these clutches," he said. Malik said Lashkar had taught him marksmanship and mountain climbing. He sneaked into India in October 1999, with the equivalent of $ 200 in expense money. He took part only in two attacks before Chittisinghpora -- one on an army outpost and the other on a bus carrying soldiers.

In Sialkot, his father insisted he did not know to which group Malik belonged even though a Lashkar was on one of the walls of the room in which NYT correspondent Barry Bearak interviewed him, the newspaper wrote. And his "favourite" uncle declined to answer any question, but lashed out at Christians and Jews. Malik agreed that he is likely to spend the rest of his life in an Indian prison. Terming this as "a dreary prospect," he said he would have preferred the "glory of martyrdom."

He said he had attended a government school but like many boys in Pakistan, had switched over to a madrassa, a Muslim religious academy. He said he heard the speeches of Lashkar leaders while studying in Lahore and trusted their vision of the world and trusted still. In Lahore, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, a Lashkar leader and its parent organisation the Markaz Ad-daawa Wal Irashad, refused to recognise Malik when his photograph was shown to him.

When told about Malik's reverence for him and his confession, Saeed looked at the picture and said, "We do not believe in killing innocents. I have condemned this very massacre," the newspaper wrote. He glanced at the picture a second time and said he doubted Malik had ever belonged to Lashkar. "It is very easy to extract statements with torture. Look, you can see he is handcuffed and not free to talk," he added.

Also view

Chittisinghpura Massacre

A Kashmiri Mystery

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