India has tell-tale evidence of Pak connection, say agencies
30 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday promised to help India unearth the hand behind the Mumbai attack. Well, he will not have to work hard. For, Indian agencies have managed to lay their hands on evidence which has ripped apart Islamabad's perennial denial about the involvement of Pakistan's quasi-state actor in the terror campaign against India.
Sources said a satellite phone recovered from one of the rafts that the 10 jihadi desperados used to enter Mumbai on that fateful Wednesday night has yielded tell-tale evidence of the direct involvement of top hierarchy of ISI-backed Lashkar-e-Toiba in the Mumbai mayhem.
The satellite phone records show that the gang remained in touch with Muzammil alias Yusuf who is in-charge of Lashkar's anti-India operations. More crucially, Ajmal has told his ATS interrogators about the direct interest that Zakiur Rahman, a top-ranking jihadi and one of the founding members of Lashkar, took in the anti-Mumbai plot.
Sources said information harvested from the satellite phone, the GPS device that the jihadis used to navigate their way to Mumbai and the detailed account of Ajmal, the gang member in custody, add up to a solid body of evidence of Lashkar's direct complicity.
The Lashkar leadership was directly involved at each step of the plot -- from organising a safe house for the gang in Karachi's Azizabad locality before they set out on the deadly mission to arranging the Pakistani vessel Al Hussaini with arms and ammunition on which they travelled.
The details also appear to have formed the basis for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to forcefully speak about the Pakistani connection to the ghastly crime. Talking to media in Islamabad on Saturday, the Pakistani FM confirmed that India, in a clear reference to Singh's conversation with Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday, had spoken of the involvement of Pakistan-based organisations in the savagery.
Top government sources described the evidence as "clinching". "It is so convincing that Pakistan can refuse to take action against Lashkar only at the cost of the admission that it has lost control over its territory, or the confirmation of the charge that it connives with terrorists operating from its soil," they said.
The satellite phone was a fortuitous find for the investigating agencies. According to Ajmal, Muzammil had instructed the gang members to destroy the equipment before entering Mumbai. Fortunately for India, the jihadis forgot to carry out the brief, leaving crucial information for the investigators.
The GPS device, so programmed as to help the Lashkar operatives chart their way to India and back, is another evidence.
Muzammil is a notorious `India hand', having scripted the attack on the CRPF camp in Rampur in UP on January 1 this year. The subsequent arrests of Lashkar operatives, Fahim Ansari and others, also brought out Lashkar's resolve to target Mumbai almost a year before the jihadis actually struck. Fahim had told his interrogators from UP Special Task Force and, later, Hemant Karkare, the former chief of Mumbai ATS, that Lashkar was plotting to target important landmarks like Gateway of India, Stock Exchange and Hotel Centaur.
It is, however, rare for Zakiur Rahman, a veteran jihadi who is fondly called ‘chachu’ by the gang, to get into the frame himself. That he made an exception to get in touch with the jihadis he despatched to Mumbai speaks of the importance that Lashkar gave to the operation.
Ajmal had told interrogators that he and his accomplices were put up in a house in Karachi's Azizabad locality for a while before being asked to board a mid-sized vessel from Kajhar Creek. They travelled 20-25 km southwest before they were picked up by a group of Pakistanis on board a ship plying under the registration of Al Hussaini. The terrorists later switched to Kuber, an Indian trawler they commandeered after killing three of the occupants.
The skipper of the trawler was also killed a day later as a prelude to the indiscriminate killing spree they began, leaving explosives in the taxis they took and which went off after they had got off. They also forced employees of Taj and Trident hotels to act as their guides by killing their colleagues in front of them. Times Of India