Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence created Lashkar-e-Tayiba and has definite links with the terror group which has been involved in attacks in Mumbai, The Times has reported.
'The ISI created Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which is no more under its control. These jihadis were there in Jammu and Kashmir and we supported them,' the report quoted an unnamed senior ISI official as saying.
'It's (LeT) a monster we created and now we can't get it back in the bottle,' the official told the daily commenting on ISI's links with Lashkar.
The report was filed from Muridke in Pakistan, which is the headquarters of the now banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah.
The ISI had forged ties with jihadi groups throughout the 1980s when the CIA used it to support the Mujahideen against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and when it saw an opportunity in 1989 to weaken India by creating trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, the outfit's terrorists were infiltrated into India, the newspaper reported.
General Asad Durrani, ISI chief from 1990-92, denied supporting LeT in his tenure, but admitted that Pakistan had an interest in supporting such groups.
'Given Kashmir's history, we can't be expected to remain uninterested,' he added.
The ISI, the report said, officially severed links with LeT in 2002 after the group attacked Indian Parliament, but Indian and US intelligence believe that it maintained covert support, probably through ex-ISI officers.
The Times correspondent, who visited a 75-acre complex in Muridke, said that although the administrator Mohammed Abbas denied any connection with the ISI, it was here (in Muridke), in April 2001.
'Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, LeT's leader at the time, called a meeting of his supporters in the complex of red-brick buildings and neat lawns. Most of the visitors wore the obligatory long beards, but among them was an elderly man with no beard, only a thin, military-style moustache. He was Hamid Gul, the former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.'
'Yes, I visited there. Retired army officers used to go, too. They used to hold annual fixtures to raise funds and motivate people,' the daily quoted Gul as saying.
'Cleansing the ISI is America's dream, but this is Pakistan's first line of defence. It keeps the country united,' Gul added.