Mumbai terror attacks planning began a year ago

The planning for 26/11 started a year ago, and security agencies had evidence of it — nine maps plotting the attack sites recovered from a LeT terrorist arrested in UP on Feb10. HT reports. Full CoverageSee map
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Updated on Dec 05, 2008 10:34 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByManish Pachouly, Presley Thomas and Haider Naqvi, Mumbai/kanpur

The planning for the November 26 terror attack started a year ago, and security agencies had evidence of it — nine maps plotting the attack sites recovered from a Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorist arrested in Uttar Pradesh on February 10. But the evidence was buried in a bulky chargesheet.

The story began in 2003 in Dubai, where Fahim Ansari, originally a resident of Goregaon (W), was looking for a job.

Fahim, already an activist of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India, was spotted by a Lashkar recruiter. Police sources said Fahim was indoctrinated and sent to Pakistan by sea. He was trained in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, in handling computers and arms.

Last year, he was sent to Mumbai with orders to scout various locations, most of which were attacked on November 26 by the 10 men who came to the city by boat, said police sources.

The chargesheet against him said that in Mumbai, Fahim called himself Shahil Paskar and stayed at Sunlight Guest house near Grant Road from November 28 to December 10, 2007. He surveyed spots in south Mumbai and drew out maps by hand.

The maps — part of the UP police chargesheet and copies of which are with HT— gave directions from Cuffe Parade and Backbay Reclamation to Gateway of India, Lions Gate (the Naval dockyard), the state police headquarters, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Mantralaya, Vidhan Bhavan, Churchgate and the police commissioner’s office, among other places.

Some maps even gave the time it would take to commute between locations.

On November 26, the 10 terrorists landed in a rubber dinghy near Cuffe Parade and Backbay. They then split up into different teams, attacking Taj hotel at the Gateway, CST, the Oberoi and Nariman House at Colaba.

Fahim - who was arrested for the December 31, 2007, attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh - confessed to surveying the sites and preparing the maps. A separate first information report (FIR) filed on February 10 by the Civil Lines police station in Rampur, after Fahim's arrest, mentioned this. The FIR also mentioned the seizure of the maps.

The Uttar Pradesh police also seized Fahim's Pakistani passport (BM6809341), which gave his name as Hassan Hammad, a false identity. It was issued on November 1, 2007, and was valid till October 30, 2012.

The STF then flew Fahim to Mumbai, where he was kept for three days. During this time, he showed the Mumbai police all the sites that were eventually attacked on November 26, said STF sources.

"Our officers took Fahim to Mumbai," confirmed AK Jain, inspector-general of police, Uttar Pradesh ATS. "He told the Mumbai police everything he told us."

Added Amitabh Yash, then senior superintendent of police, STF: "Later, the Mumbai police got a court remand allowing them to take custody of Fahim as well."

"Fahim guided the ATS to all the attack sites, particularly the Taj and CST, which he'd surveyed. He had sent the information by e-mail to somebody in Pakistan," said a senior STF officer in Lucknow. Fahim also told the STF that he was asked to arrange for safe houses as close to the sea as possible and for Maharashtra-registered vehicles, said an STF officer.

But, KP Raghuvanshi, currently in charge of the ATS, told Hindustan Times: "At present, we are not following the Fahim angle."

Investigations showed that Fahim was managed by Muzammil, a Pakistan-based Lashkar commander who was later found to have also 'handled' the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

"Fahim used more than 16 e-mail accounts to communicate with his handlers. He sent them nine scanned copies of handmade maps. His disclosures were later cross-checked with another Pakistani militant Sabauddin, who was arrested for the Rampur attack," said an STF officer.

Fahim was arrested with two others at the Rampur bus stand with grenades and a pistol. Another team nabbed Sabauddin, Imran Shehzaad and Mohd Farooq Bhatti while waiting for Fahim in Lucknow. From them, the STF seized three AK assault rifles, a 9-mm pistol and eight grenades.

All of them were to catch the Pushpak Express for Mumbai, where Fahim had established a safe house for the Rampur attackers. STF sources said he also provided them logistical support.

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