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Obama to Pak: Terrorist safe havens not acceptable, must punish 26/11 attackers

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New Delhi (Jan. 23, 2015): Just ahead of his visit to India US president Barack Obama has sent a strong message to Pakistan, calling on it to dismantle terrorist safe havens and to punish those behind the Mumbai attacks.

"I've made it clear that even as the United States works with Pakistan to meet the threat of terrorism, safe havens within Pakistan are not acceptable and that those behind the Mumbai terrorist attack must face justice." Obama said in an interview to India Today.

This is the first time Obama has publicly accused key strategic ally Pakistan of harbouring terrorists who launch attacks in the region.

He is also the latest in a string of top US leaders to urge Pakistan to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 6 Americans were among the 166 killed.

"On my previous visit to India, my first stop was the memorial at the Taj hotel to pay my respects to the victims, meet with survivors and send a strong message to the Indian people that we stand together in defence of our security and our way of life," he said referring to the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the several sites in Mumbai targeted by militants of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-taiba.

Noting that terroists in Pakistan continued to pose a threat to both that country and the region he said:  " Like people around the world, Indians and Americans were horrified at the senseless slaughter of so many students and teachers at the school in Peshawar, which was a painful reminder that terrorists threaten us all."

Obama lauded India's contribution to the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan saying : "I would add that we are grateful for the generous assistance that India has provided over many years to help the Afghan people improve their lives."

He said even though the US combat mission in Aghanistan was over, American troops would continue to train and equip Afghan forces and engage in counter-terrorism missions to prevent al Qaeda's return.

Referring to the recent attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Obama said the greatest terror threat currently comes from, al Qaeda affiliates, violent extremist groups and individuals who have succumbed to terrorist ideologies.

"We're helping nations go after terrorist groups within their borders, whether on the Arabian Peninsula or North Africa. We're leading the international coalition to destroy ISIL. We're working with many nations to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing borders and attacking our citizens, " he said.