A key witness in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case told a court on Thursday he had seen two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) activists exchanging maps of various targets in the city.
Naruddin Mehboob Shaikh, a resident of Goregaon suburb in north-west Mumbai, identified Fahim Ansari as his friend and neighbour of over 30 years, and also identified Sabahuddin Shaikh as Fahim's friend whom he had met in Nepal.
Shaikh's testimony could be crucial to nail the LeT activists, since, according to the prosecution, they had prepared maps on the instructions of Pakistan-based chief of LeT operations Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, one of the masterminds of the November 26-29, 2008, terror attacks that claimed over 170 lives.
Sheikh told Special Judge ML Tahilyani that he had met Fahim and Sabahuddin in Nepal, where he had gone to meet a common friend, Bharat Thakur, in January 2008.
"When I met Fahim, he invited me to his guest house and there I met Sabahuddin for the first time," Shaikh said.
During the course of the conversation, Sabahuddin enquired of Fahim whether he had done Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi's work.
"Fahim removed some papers and handed them over to Sabahuddin. But while doing so, some of the papers fell from his hands. They were some maps," Shaikh said.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had said earlier that Fahim conducted detailed reconnaissance of the targeted locations with the help of information provided by Sabahuddin.
Keeping in touch through a messenger, Fahim prepared the maps and handed them to Sabahuddin in Kathmandu, who in turn, passed them on to the 26/11 conspirators.
When Shaikh joked whether Fahim had started a new business of drawing maps, Sabahuddin intervened and said that some of his Pakistani friends who planned to visit Mumbai wanted them.
"I also told him that there were many maps available in the market and why was he taking the pains to draw them. He replied that the maps available in the markets were not appropriate and so he was making new maps," the witness told the court.
Earlier, a handwriting expert, in his deposition, had said that the writings on maps recovered from the slain terrorist Abu Ismail's bag matched the specimen signature of Fahim. Shaikh also identified the maps shown to him as the ones he had seen with Fahim in Nepal.
At this, Fahim got up and said that he did not know Shaikh and they were not friends.
"I don't know him. Friends make sacrifices for their friends. If he was my friend, he would not depose here," he said.
The judge quipped: "Tera dost aise hi hai, to hum kya karein?" (If your friend is like this, what can we do?)