The terror attacks on Mumbai may have taken place earlier, if four operatives of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the terror outfit believed to be behind the attack, had not got arrested in February, say the police.
The arrest of Fahim Ansari, Sabahuddin Ahmed and their two Pakistani associates by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police seems to have delayed the plan as they were originally meant to execute the attack.
“We interrogated Fahim, Sabahuddin and two Pakistanis - Mohammed Farooq and Imran Shehzada. Based on their revelations, it seems their aborted attack, in terms of its planning and modus operandi, unfolded as the 26/11 attack,” a senior UP police officer, who works with the Anti-Terrorism Squad, told Hindustan Times, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The delay also seems to have broadened the scale of the attack. “… there was of course an upgradation in the scale and the sea route was the mode of infiltration,” the officer added.
Interrogation reports of Ansari and Ahmed, of which HT has a copy, reveal that the duo’s Mumbai attack plan was being coordinated and directed by top Lashkar leaders in Pakistan - Muzammil alias Abu Yusuf, Kafa and Zaqir ur Rehman alias Chacha.
Muzammil, as per the interrogation report, had given instructions that the weapons used in the Lashkar attack on a CRPF camp in Rampur as well as the two suicide attackers sent to execute the Rampur attack were to be deployed for the Mumbai attack.
Ansari had inspected dozen-odd target spots in Mumbai, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the Taj Mahal hotel, for this attack. Before his arrest, in January, Ansari handed over video footages, hand-drawn maps and photographs of the target locations to Ahmed, who passed it on to their mentors.
The Mumbai Crime Branch is now ascertaining if the information Ansari collected was used by the 10-man team that attacked the city on November 26. The four arrested men — Sabahuddin, Ansari, Farooq and Shehzad — have told the UP police that they used Thuraya satellite phones to escape detection and communicate with Muzammil, like the 26/11 attackers.