Six arrested in Mumbai stock exchange plot

Police in northern India have arrested six Islamic militants who were headed to the country's financial capital, Mumbai, to carry out suicide attacks on the stock exchange, officials told CNN Monday.

"They had multiple targets," said Amitabh Yash, senior superintendent of police in the state of Uttar Pradesh. "If they failed in their first target (the stock exchange), then they were going to move to their second one: the Churchgate railway station."

The stock exchange in Mumbai is the oldest in Asia and one of the largest in the world -- and a symbol of the country's rapidly growing economy.

The train station that the militants allegedly targeted is used daily by thousands of commuters in the metropolis of more than 11 million people.

Yash told CNN that the militants are members of Lashkar e-Tayyiba (Army of the Pure). The group is one of several fighting against Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

The U.S. State Department has designated the group as a terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility for several attacks against Indian troops and civilians over the years.

Yash, who heads Uttar Pradesh's anti-terrorism task force, said the six men were headed to Mumbai in two groups, both armed with weapons and grenades.

The militants had surveilled the area, set up a safehouse and were awaiting word from their superiors, he said.

One of the men is suspected to have been involved in a New Year's Day attack on a paramilitary camp in Uttar Pradesh that killed eight people. Information from him tipped police off to the others Saturday, Yash said.

The men are also accused of killing a professor during a 2005 attack at a science university in southeastern India.

"This is very significant," Yash said of the arrests. "Generally, we catch two or three of them, the rest manage to escape."

"But then, this is also a warning because that tells us how extensive the network is," he added. "And you can be sure there will be other(s)."

The Himalayan territory of Kashmir has been the source of bitter dispute and two wars between India and neighboring Pakistan. Both control parts of the region which is predominantly Muslim.

The State Department said Lashkar e-Tayyiba has several thousand members in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir and called it one of the three largest and best-trained groups fighting against India.

The Pakistani government has banned the group and froze its assets in 2002.