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Terrorists began killing spree in high seas

The militants, who entered into Mumbai by boats to carry out probably the worst terror attack on India, began their killing spree in the high seas where they killed five fishermen who were "missing" since last week.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2008 14:24 IST

The militants, who entered into Mumbai by boats to carry out probably the worst terror attack on India, began their killing spree in the high seas where they killed five fishermen who're "missing" since last week.

The militants killed and thrown off-board four members of Indian fishing trawler 'Kuber' soon after they had hijacked it, while the fifth person, identified as Balwant Tandel, was beheaded as the vessel neared the Mumbai shores, sources said.

In fact, the investigators are now corroborating the information they gathered with that of the version of the arrested Lashker-e-Taiba militant Ajmal Amin Kamal.

So far, it has emerged that Kamal, along with another 11 Lashker cadres, had sailed off the Karachi port city in a merchant vessel and got down at ten nautical miles in Indian waters.

Kamal, who had been maintaining that they had used the fibre glass boats to reach Mumbai on Wednesday night, has now confessed that they also used a fishing trawler, which was reported to be "missing" after rough weather on November 18.

And after killing the five crew members, the militants docked the vessel at Sasool area and began their massacre with clear cut instructions from across the border that "no mercy needs to be shown".

Giving an insight into the Lashker's seas-warfare, he is said to have claimed that, along with other LeT operatives, they were trained in marine commando techniques on Mangla Dam, a reservoir stretching between Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) to Punjab in Pakistan.

In fact, Lashker chose the sea route to reach India's financial capital as the militant outfit was finding it increasingly difficult to sneak into the country through the Line-of-Control.

The militants' journey began in Lahore before they reached Karachi with strict instructions that they should not be talking to any fellow passengers or among themselves during the train journey to the port-city, the sources said.

After sailing in a merchant vessel from Karachi, they found the Indian vessel.

Subsequently, the dozen people split into at least five groups that created havoc in five-star hotels -- Taj and Trident. The terrorists were carrying dry fruits, suggesting they were prepared for a long-drawn battle.

Choice of targets -- Taj Mahal hotel and Oberoi -- was given to them by a Lashker commander in Karachi before they sailed to carry out the attack as these two hotels were always frequented by foreigners, especially Britons and Americans due to its proximity to the Arabian Sea, the sources said.

The arrested militant claimed that Mumbai's Nariman House was selected as it was home to a large number of Israeli families and a Jewish prayer house, and was being frequented by Americans intelligence officials, the sources said.

The sources said the group was joined by some of the local contacts who provided them with logistics like bags and dry fruits.

While some reports suggested that two militants had enrolled in Taj as waiter and cook very recently, it was not immediately confirmed as investigators suggested that it might take more time to corroborate the claims.

The arrested militant also claimed that at least three of them in the group had come to Mumbai earlier, visited the two hotels and were well versed with the exit routes specially the false ceiling of the Hotel Taj.

The arrested militant, also known as Faisal Haroun, a top Lashker operative who commanded the terror group's India- operations out of Bangladesh, as one of the main conspirators in this operation.

Haroun, according to intelligence agencies, have been using a shipping network, including merchant ships and small fishing boats, to move explosives to Lashker units operating in India.

The sources claimed Haroun had also been attempting to set up an Indian Ocean base for the Lashker, along with a Male (Maldives)-based resident, Ali.

In 2007, the presence of terror groups in the Maldives, including the bombing of tourists in Male and the imposing Shariya law in one of the islands was seen as a danger to the country's western marine security.

First Published: Nov 29, 2008 14:15 IST