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On trial eve, 26/11 breakthrough in Europe

india Updated: Apr 15, 2009 02:03 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
On eve of trial

60-day global covert operation by Indian intelligence agencies leads to Pak Lashkar operative’s detention in Europe

A secret, determined global effort by India to track down those involved in the November 26 Mumbai attacks has borne fruit.

<b1>Shahid Jamil Riaz, a key Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) operative who handled financial transactions and was among the core group of 26/11 conspirators, has been detained in a European country, top officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs have told Hindustan Times.

Riaz is likely to be brought to India by the end of this week, where he will be officially charged and arrested.

The breakthrough, indicating the global reach of the conspirators, comes on a day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India had given “enough evidence” to Pakistan.

Riaz’s arrest will further strengthen the 26/11 case trial, which begins in a special court inside the high-security Arthur Road jail on Wednesday. The arrest will also validate India’s stand that Pakistani nationals were involved in the attack, which left 173 dead and more than 300 injured.

A retired teacher from a village near Bahawalpur in Pakistan, Riaz went to Spain to facilitate the procurement of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), said sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs. “It was later procured in the name of one Javed Iqbal, a Lashkar operative,” said the official.

The virtual phone number used for VOIP was initially set up with the US-based service provider Callphonix by Riaz, who identified himself as Kharak Singh from India, added the official. All VOIP subscribers are entitled to multiple phone numbers that can be used from different locations, and “Riaz requested Callphonix to assign five numbers”.

The numbers were used to communicate with the 10 Mumbai attackers. The official said the Pakistani national was also instrumental in the procurement of the Yamaha motor fitted on the rubber dingy the terrorists used to land in Colaba, after leaving MV Kuber — the fishing trawler used to travel from Pakistan up to the Mumbai coast — two nautical miles off the Indian coast.

Top Lashkar commanders Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Muzzamil alias Yusuf and Abu-Al-Qama used the VOIP service to keep in touch with eight of the 10 terrorists who laid siege on the three hotels for nearly 60 hours. Transcripts of these calls, prepared by the Mumbai crime branch, said the terrorists had made 284 calls and talked for nearly 20 hours to their handlers in Pakistan.