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Mumbai gunman’s confession sheds light on massacre

by Ramo­la Tal­war Badam

MUMBAI, India – The gun­man cap­tured in last mon­th’s Mum­bai attacks had orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed to seize hostages and out­line demands in a series of dra­mat­ic calls to the media, accord­ing to his con­fes­sion obtained Sat­ur­day by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab said he and his part­ner, who mas­sa­cred dozens of peo­ple in the city’s main train sta­tion, had planned a rooftop stand­off, but aban­doned the plans because they could­n’t find a suit­able build­ing, the state­ment to police says.

Kasab’s sev­en-page con­fes­sion, giv­en to police over repeat­ed inter­ro­ga­tions, offers chill­ing new details of the three-day ram­page through Indi­a’s com­mer­cial cen­ter that left 164 peo­ple plus nine gun­men dead.

He said the assault, which start­ed Nov. 26, was ini­tial­ly set for Sept. 27, though he does­n’t explain why it was delayed. The gun­men had been told by their han­dlers to car­ry out the attacks dur­ing rush hours when the sta­tion is teem­ing with com­muters.

After reach­ing Mum­bai, Kasab and his part­ner, Ismail Khan, the group’s ring­leader, head­ed to the train sta­tion by taxi.

“Ismail and myself went to the com­mon toi­let, took out the weapons from our sacks, loaded them, came out of toi­let and start­ed fir­ing indis­crim­i­nate­ly toward the pas­sen­gers,” Kasab told police.

As a police offi­cer opened fire, the two mil­i­tants retal­i­at­ed with grenades before enter­ing anoth­er part of the sta­tion and ran­dom­ly shoot­ing more com­muters.

The men then searched for a build­ing with a rooftop where they had been told to hold hostages and call a con­tact named Chacha, whom Kasab iden­ti­fied as Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the sus­pect­ed mas­ter­mind behind the attacks.

Chacha, which means “uncle” in Hin­di, would sup­ply phone num­bers for media out­lets and spec­i­fy what demands the two should make.

“This was the gen­er­al strat­e­gy decid­ed by our train­ers,” Kasab said.

Tak­ing heavy fire from police, the two had trou­ble find­ing a “suit­able build­ing” and stormed a hos­pi­tal they mis­took for an apart­ment build­ing. There, they searched for hostages and trad­ed more gun­fire with secu­ri­ty forces. It’s unclear if they ever held hostages.

When they left, a police van pulled up and the two tried to take shel­ter behind a bush dur­ing the shootout. Kasab was hit in the hand as Khan returned fire.

“They got injured and the fir­ing from their side stopped,” he said.

Police have con­firmed the van was car­ry­ing top police offi­cials, includ­ing the head of the anti-ter­ror squad who was killed.

In the con­fes­sion, Kasab, 21, describes his con­ver­sion from an aspir­ing street crim­i­nal to a loy­al sol­dier for Lashkar-e-Tai­ba, the ter­ror­ist group banned by Pak­istan in 2002 and blamed by India in the attacks.

He came to the orga­ni­za­tion last year while look­ing to buy guns to com­mit rob­beries after quit­ting a low-pay­ing job at a cater­ing busi­ness. The search led him to sev­er­al Lashkar “stalls” at a bazaar in the Pak­istani city of Rawalpin­di, he said.

Kasab went on to receive rig­or­ous train­ing in weapons han­dling and oth­er skills, attend­ing at least six Lashkar camps and vis­it­ing his par­ents twice dur­ing breaks, he said. Lashkar oper­a­tives even lec­tured recruits on India secu­ri­ty and intel­li­gence agen­cies, and taught them how to evade pur­su­ing secu­ri­ty forces.

He said they were shown “clip­pings high­light­ing the atroc­i­ties on Mus­lims in India,” images of Mum­bai loca­tions on Google Earth, and film footage of the train sta­tion.

“We were instruct­ed to car­ry out the fir­ing at rush hour in the morn­ing between 7 to 11 hours and between 7 and 11 hours in the evening,” he said. The attacks ulti­mate­ly start­ed around 9:30 p.m.

After Kasab and nine oth­ers were picked among a group of 32 recruits, they head­ed to Karachi in Sep­tem­ber and prac­ticed trav­el­ing on speed boats.

On Nov. 23, the group was trans­port­ed to a ship called the Al-Husei­ni far out at sea.

Short­ly after board­ing, “each of us was giv­en a sack con­tain­ing 8 grenades, one AK47 rifle, 200 car­tridges, two mag­a­zines and one cell phone for com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” he said.

The Al-Huseini’s crew, he said, lat­er hijacked an Indi­an ves­sel, killing all but one crew mem­ber who was tem­porar­i­ly kept alive and held at gun­point to guide them into Mum­bai’s coastal waters.

“When we were at some dis­tance from the shore, Ismail and (anoth­er mil­i­tant) killed the Indi­an sea­man” before the group board­ed a dinghy and came ashore “per the instruc­tions received ear­li­er.”

Police said Sat­ur­day that Kasab, who’s fac­ing a crim­i­nal case in the attacks, has writ­ten to Pak­istani offi­cials to request legal help.

In a let­ter writ­ten Thurs­day, he asked for “legal aid” from the Pak­istani con­sulate and request­ed a meet­ing with a con­sular rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said Rakesh Maria, Mum­bai’s chief inves­ti­ga­tor.

The let­ter was for­ward­ed to Indi­a’s gov­ern­ment to relay to Pak­istani offi­cials, but it was unclear whether it had been deliv­ered, Maria said.

Pak­istani offi­cials were not imme­di­ate­ly avail­able for com­ment.

A num­ber of Indi­an lawyers — includ­ing a promi­nent group of Mum­bai attor­neys — have refused to defend Kasab against crim­i­nal charges amid out­rage over the attacks.

Kasab is being held on 12 offens­es, includ­ing mur­der and wag­ing war against the coun­try, but has not yet been for­mal­ly charged.

Islam­abad has refused to acknowl­edge Kasab’s nation­al­i­ty, com­plain­ing that India has yet to fur­nish any evi­dence.


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