In one of their most complex and intriguing operations lately, Indian intelligence agencies tracked 26/11 accused Abu Jundal alias Zaibuddin Ansari to Saudi Arabia and brought him to Delhi on June 21.
The operation took nearly a year, and involved intense negotiations with an otherwise indifferent Saudi Arabia. It also involved a DNA test, a senior intelligence official told HT requesting anonymity.
Pakistan apparently spent its last ounce of diplomatic sweat, trying to pressure Saudi authorities into releasing Abu Jundal.
Believed to be one of the handlers who directed the Mumbai carnage from a ‘control room’ in Karachi, Jundal is also suspected of having trained the 10 terrorists including Ajmal Kasab, who confessed to having learnt some Hindi from this handler.
Indian intelligence agencies had tracked Jundal to Saudi Arabia on a tip-off about a year ago. But early attempts to get his custody failed because although he is from Beed in Maharashtra, he had travelled to Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport.
For months, Pakistan’s ISI exerted immense pressure on Saudi, a home ministry official told HT. It did not want Jundal to be handed over to India at any cost. He was too prized a catch: A Lashkar-e-Taiba insider who could expose the role of ‘state actors’ in the Mumbai attack.
Soon after 26/11, when Kasab's capture and arrest had exposed Pakistan's role, President Asif Ali Zardari had famously said that "non-state actors" could have been involved in the Mumbai terror attack.
In a diplomatic game that involved three countries, India, too, stepped up pressure and sent several documents to the Saudi authorities to establish that Jundal may be using a Pakistani passport, but was actually an Indian citizen.
The clincher was a DNA test. A sample — obtained from Ansari's family — was sent to the Saudi authorities by India, the intelligence source said.
Once the test matched, the Pakistani game was up and the Saudi authorities were persuaded at last. Jundal was handed over to an Indian intelligence team which brought him back to Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport.
Jundal — now remanded to police custody — will help the 26/11 investigation. While Pakistan has evaded providing voice samples of the handlers who controlled the attack from Karachi, India will at least be able to match the voice on the intercept with that of Jundal's.