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India clears last Mumbai siege site

MUMBAI, India - As authorities finished removing bodies Monday from the bullet- and grenade-scarred Taj Mahal hotel, a Muslim graveyard refused to bury nine gunmen who terrorized this city over three days last week, leaving at least 172 people dead and wreaking havoc at some of its most famous landmarks.

The United States, meanwhile, has told Pakistan it needs to fully cooperate on investigations into the siege.

Pakistan must 'follow the evidence wherever it leads,' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a press conference aboard her plane en route to London. 'I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation and that's what we expect.'

Rice said she was cutting short a European trip to visit India later this week.

In Mumbai, security forces declared the landmark 565-room Taj Mahal hotel cleared of booby traps and bodies. The hotel was the scene of the final battle Saturday morning.

'We were apprehensive about more bodies being found. But this is not likely - all rooms in the Taj have been opened and checked,' said Maharashtra state government spokesman Bhushan Gagrani.

The army had already cleared other sites, including the five-star Oberoi hotel and the Mumbai headquarters of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group. Israeli emergency workers sorted through the shattered glass and splintered furniture at the Jewish center Monday to gather the victims' body parts. At one point, one of the men opened a prayer book amid the rubble and stopped to pray.

The only gunman captured after the attacks said he belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group with links to the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, said Joint Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria. Maria added that the gunman, Ajmal Qasab, said he was trained at a camp in Pakistan.

Pakistani President Asif Zardari's spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, dismissed the claim, saying Islamabad has 'demanded evidence of the complicity of any Pakistani group' but has received none.

Qasab was among 10 who paralyzed the city in the attack, which also wounded 239 people.

A Muslim graveyard in Mumbai said Monday it would not bury the dead gunmen, with an official saying they are not true followers of the Islamic faith.

'People who committed this heinous crime cannot be called Muslim,' said Hanif Nalkhande, a trustee of the influential Jama Masjid Trust, which runs the 7.5-acre (three-hectare) Badakabrastan graveyard in downtown Mumbai. 'Islam does not permit this sort of barbaric crime.'

While some Muslim scholars disagreed with the decision - saying Islam requires a proper burial for every Muslim - the city's other Muslim graveyards are likely to go along because of the authority of the Jama Masjid trust.

Mumbai returned to normal Monday to some degree, with parents dropping their children off at school and many shopkeepers opened their doors for the first time since the attacks began.

'I think this is the first Monday I am glad to be coming to work,' said Donica Trivedi, 23, an employee of a public relations agency.

The attack revealed the weakness of India's security apparatus. India's top law enforcement official resigned Sunday, bowing to growing criticism that the attackers appeared better trained, better coordinated and better armed than police.

Maharashtra's top official, Vilasrao Deshmukh, offered to resign Monday, as did his deputy, R.R. Patil, who had sparked outrage by referring to the attacks as 'small incidents.'

The announcement blaming militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba threatened to escalate tensions between India and Pakistan. However, Indian officials have been cautious about accusing Pakistan's government of complicity.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash denied a news report that India was preparing to end a 2003 cease-fire with Pakistan. An intelligence official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said there was no unusual mobilization of troops along the India-Pakistan border.

Pakistan has warned that any buildup of troops on its border with India would require troops to be pulled from its western frontier, where it is fighting militants suspected of launching attacks throughout the country and on American troops in Afghanistan.

The group the Indians have blamed, Lashkar, has long seen as a creation of the Pakistani intelligence service to help fight India in disputed Kashmir. It was banned in Pakistan in 2002 under pressure from the U.S., a year after Washington and Britain listed it a terrorist group. It is since believed to have emerged under another name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though that group has denied links to the Mumbai attack.

As more details of the response to the attack emerged, a picture formed of woefully unprepared security forces.

'These guys could do it next week again in Mumbai and our responses would be exactly the same,' said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management and who has close ties to India's police and intelligence.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency.

Singh promised to expand the commando force and set up new bases for it around the country. He called a rare meeting of leaders from the country's main political parties, hours after the resignation of Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

The death toll of 172 was revised down from 195 Sunday after authorities said some bodies were counted twice.

Among the 19 foreigners killed were six Americans. The dead also included Germans, Canadians, Israelis and nationals from Britain, Italy, Mexico, Japan, China, Thailand, Australia, Singapore and Mexico.

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Associated Press reporters Ravi Nessman, Paul Peachey, Anita Chang and Ramola Talwar Badam contributed to this report from Mumbai, Ashok Sharma contributed from New Delhi and Asif Shahzad from Islamabad, Pakistan.