Abu Jundal alias Zabiuddin Ansari had visited Maharashtra before the 26/11 attack to spot safe houses for the 10 terrorists who were launched from Keti Bundar in Pakistan, said police sources interrogating Jundal. It was Jundal’s idea to ask the terrorists to wear saffron wristbands to give the attack a communal overtone, they added.
The idea of safe houses was part of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) initial plan to land the terrorists in Gujarat, and then target predefined targets in Gujarat and Maharashtra, which included Hotel Taj, the army camp in Pune, Mumbai airport, RSS headquarters and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc).
LeT had decided to launch a major attack as most of its experienced fighters were miffed with the organisation, and were opting for other terrorist organisations fighting alongside Taliban in Afghanistan, said police sources.
“The initial plan was to drop the 10 terrorists about 100km from Mumbai, primarily to avoid detection. They wanted to execute a far more spectacular attack than 26/11, because LeT leaders were losing popularity,” said a senior police officer requesting anonymity.
LeT stuck to the plan till June 2008, but revisited the plot after Jundal briefed them of practical problems the attackers could face in terms of transportation. But Sajid Majid, who was in control of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, wanted to stick to the original plan, and also wanted to egress the 10 terrorists through Jammu and Kashmir, said police sources.
At this point, LeT’s chief commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and key LeT commander Muzzamil Bhat alias Yusuf stepped in, ruled out the egress option, and stuck to the plan in which the operatives would be sacrificed, sources said.
Later, Lakhvi and Bhat along with Major Iqbal chalked out the plan to transport the 10 terrorists to Pakistan’s maritime border, and then hijack an Indian fishing vessel, said police sources.
Only after this had the LeT’s decision-making committee, comprising 12 key LeT operatives, decided to land the terrorists at Badhwar Park in Colaba and target Hotel Taj, Oberoi hotel, CST station and Chabad House, sources said.