It took 62 hours and India’s best commandos to subdue 10 terrorists by Saturday — but not before the killers had shot 183 people, ravaged Mumbai and shaken India.
As he lies in an unidentified safe-house in Mumbai with multiple gunshot injuries, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasav has — in five-minute spurts of conversations allowed by doctors trying to save his life — told interrogators of the meticulous,
rigorous training in arms, navigation and communication that allowed a fourth-standard pass like him to become a deadly terrorist.
On Saturday, the Mumbai police were given custody of Kasav by an unidentified local judge, who went to the safe-house.
It was Kasav’s, compact, clean-shaven face, carrying a heavily loaded rucksack, cargo pants, t-shirt emblazoned with “Versace” and an AK-56 with multiple magazines strapped together, became the face of India’s deadliest urban terror attack.
From Faridkot in Pakistani Punjab, Kasav and his comrades (aged between 18 and 28), nine of them now dead, were trained in close-combat, hostage-taking, explosives handling, using satellite navigation and swimming, a senior police officer said in Delhi, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to talk about the interrogation.
The officer said “of what he (Kasav) told us, we’ve been able to confirm that the terrorists whose bodies were found were all from Pakistan”.
He did not disclose what evidence corroborated that. Asked about reports about terrorists from various countries, the officer said: “It does not matter which nation they held passports from — the men whose bodies we found were Pakistanis”.
According to accounts from various interrogators pieced together by the Hindustan Times, the terrorists, all belonging to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (Army of the Pure), were trained at Karachi, Muzaffarabad (In Pakistani Kashmir) and at a dam on the Jhelum river. Banned in Pakistan, the Lashkar has denied its involvement.
Kasav and his comrades watched video recordings of their targets and studied south Mumbai topography, an interrogator said.
This information was provided either by a recce team that supposedly came four months ago or by what an Intelligence Bureau official called “local logistics providers”, perhaps men from underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s gang, now reportedly holed up in Karachi.
“These are trained terrorists who came from Karachi via the sea route,” said Mumbai’s crime chief, Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria.
They boarded either a merchant vessel or fishing trawler — two interrogators differ on this — on November 15, nervously watching Indian coast guard and naval ships near Indian territorial waters.
But the patrols never checked them, Kasav reportedly said.
They then hijacked the MV Kuber near Porbandar, Gujarat, killed three crew, dumped their bodies into the sea, forced the captain to guide them to Mumbai.
“At around 3 nautical miles from Mumbai, they killed the man (captain) and coast guards found his body in the boat,” said Maria.
Kasav told interrogators that the 10 terrorists got into their inflatable raft: Six got off at Badhwar Park, about 3 km from CST, and the other four — who engaged commandos in a fierce gun-battle at the Taj Mahal Hotel till they were killed on Saturday morning — came ashore at Sassoon Docks, less than a kilometer away.
The pack of six split into groups of two, with each sub-group given a task kept hidden from the others.