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Abu Jundal, the 26/11 Mumbai terror plot’s Indian operative

Intelligence agencies believe Syed Zabiuddin Zakiuddin Ansari, who goes by the alias Abu Jundal, was one of at least four handlers who operated out of a control room set up in Karachi from November 24 till November 28, 2008.

mumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2018 12:23 IST
Charul Shah
Charul Shah
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
abu jundal,26/11 mumbai terror attacks,26/11 attacks
Syed Zabiuddin Zakiuddin Ansari, aka Abu Jundal, was born in Maharashtra’s Beed district, He was one of at least four handlers who operated out of a control room set up in Karachi from November 24 till November 28, 2008.(HT File )

When Indian intelligence agencies listened to the phone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers during the 26/11 attacks, one voice stood out. The handler spoke with an unmistakable Indian accent.

“The government guarantees us a lot, but the administration arrests young Muslim boys,” said the handler from a control room in Pakistan. “The government must know that this is just a trailer, the real movie is yet to come,” he said while coaching the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives during the terror attacks that were carried out in different south Mumbai locations in November 2008.

That voice, according to Indian investigators, belongs to 37-year-old Syed Zabiuddin Zakiuddin Ansari, who goes by the alias Abu Jundal.

Born in Maharashtra’s Beed district and son of an insurance agent, Ansari entered India’s most wanted list after he escaped the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on May 9, 2006, in Aurangabad. The chase would yield a haul of 43 kilograms of RDX, 16 AK-47 rifles and nearly 4,000 rounds of ammunition. Ansari and others were found guilty of plotting terror attacks as retaliation for the 2002 Gujarat riots. Investigators also believe Ansari planted an improvised explosive device (IED) with accomplice Fayaaz Kagzi at Ahmedabad railway station on February 19, 2006. The blast injured 25 people.

Having escaped the ATS, Ansari made his way to first Bangladesh and then Pakistan, where he would be identified as an asset by the LeT. Intelligence agencies believe Ansari was one of at least four handlers who operated out of a control room set up in Karachi from November 24 till November 28, 2008. The handlers sent instructions to the terrorists via internet phone calls and monitored the media coverage of the attacks.

Four years after 26/11, in June 2012, Ansari was arrested in Delhi. He was interrogated in July and HT has a copy of his interrogation report. On August 12, after being identified as a handler by the arrested terrorist Ajmal Kasab, Ansari recorded a confession before a magistrate (he would later retract this). The key evidence against Ansari in the 26/11 case are the calls in which he allegedly gave instructions to the terrorists. Several witnesses who have known Ansari for years have identified his voice.

However, the case has suffered setbacks. “The trial in the case is now stayed by the Bombay High Court. Until there are further orders from the court, we cannot proceed with the case,” said special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

While Delhi Police said they arrested Ansari after acting on a tip-off, Ansari claims he was deported from Saudi Arabia. A sessions court asked the Delhi Police to provide travel documents to the accused. The Delhi Police moved the Bombay high court (HC) against the lower court’s order, claiming privilege. In April this year, the Bombay high court stayed the trial against Ansari since the Delhi Police’s petition against the lower court’s order is pending.

“The stay order came after we asked for the travel documents which are mentioned in the record. The airlines did not object, but other agencies have objected to the travel documents. The documents are very crucial for us. Until that is not decided, we cannot proceed further,” said Ansari’s lawyer, Wahab Khan.

In 2016, Ansari was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Aurangabad arms haul.

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 12:22 IST