26/11 The Indian hand

One of the most intriguing aspects of the 26/11 attacks across Mumbai has been the ease with which the 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists navigated their way around the financial capital......

Y P Rajesh & Sagnik Chowdhurymumbai | Published:February 27, 2009 12:10 am

One of the most intriguing aspects of the 26/11 attacks across Mumbai has been the ease with which the 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists navigated their way around the financial capital,even though it is believed that they were in the city for the first time.

Mumbai police investigators have sought to attribute much of this to the GPS navigation systems the 10 men carried and their rigorous training in Pakistan,which included memorising Google Earth maps of Mumbai. While there has been speculation that some of the terrorists may have visited Mumbai earlier,investigators have failed to establish this. Instead,the chargesheet in the case squarely blames two alleged Indian operatives of Lashkar — Fahim Arshad Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed — who were already in the custody of the Indian police and are accused of conducting surveys of several Mumbai landmarks and supplying their Lashkar bosses with maps and information about several targets in the city.

In fact,the chargesheet goes on to say that “investigations have further revealed that a map of important locations in Mumbai was found in the possession of the deceased terrorist,Abu Ismail (the accomplice of Ajmal Amir Kasab who was killed in the encounter on Marine drive and is believed to be the leader of the group)”. The chargesheet adds,“Further,it has also transpired that this map was the one prepared by arrested accused,Fahim Ansari.”

“It is,indeed,very clear and apparent from the manner in which these attacks were conducted by the terrorists that the assault was meticulously planned and executed only after the completion of long and arduous training with thorough and well thought-out preparation and briefing,” it says. “During the last phase of their training,the selected 10 accused terrorists were shown the maps of the targeted sites of Mumbai city by their co-conspirator Abu Kaahfa. On being questioned as regards the authenticity and accuracy of the maps,Abu Kaahfa informed the terrorist accused that the maps had been meticulously prepared by arrested accused Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed.”

“It is further revealed during the investigation that wanted accused Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi handed over the maps of targeted locations to the attackers before they left Karachi for Mumbai with a direction that the said maps of the sites at Mumbai were prepared by arrested accused Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed and with the help of the said maps they could reach their assigned targets easily,” it says and adds that the attacks could not have been possible without the inputs given by Ansari and Ahmed.

Originally from Mumbai,Ansari had been arrested for the attack on a CRPF camp in Rampur,Uttar Pradesh,on the eve of new year 2007. He came under the radar of investigators probing the 26/11 attacks as some of the Lashkar-e-Toiba handlers mentioned by Kasab were also named by Ansari. Ansari’s interrogation report also lists several Mumbai locations he allegedly helped the LeT handlers zero in on while he was in Pakistan and also surveyed them during a visit to Mumbai for a possible attack. The CST railway station,the Taj Mahal Hotel and Colaba,which were attacked,figure on that list.

Besides doing a recce of Mumbai landmarks,Ansari also allegedly told his interrogators that he helped Kaahfa list several of those locations on a Google Earth map. “I took photos and made videos. I drew a diagram of roads and buildings,” Ansari is believed to have also said.

The chargesheet says that Ansari,a resident of Goregaon,tried to rent an apartment in Badhwar Park — the same area where the 10 terrorists landed in their dinghy — in December 2007 and January 2008,but he did not succeed. He went on to rent a room on Patthe Bapurao Marg and surveyed Mumbai’s landmarks while joining a computer training institute near the Bombay Stock Exchange to “camouflage his nefarious activities”,the chargesheet alleges.

Sabahuddin Ahmed of Bihar is believed to be a close associate of Abu Hamza,the alleged Lashkar terrorist blamed for the December 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. He had allegedly received the photos and videos from Ansari when the latter visited him in Kathmandu.

“Sabahuddin Ahmed,who was a very important functionary of the LeT in India,thence got in touch with his LeT bosses viz: Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Abu Kaahfa and informed them as regards the receipt of these important documents so very essential for the success of the Mumbai Mission,” the chargesheet says. “The LeT co-conspirators then made arrangements for fetching the maps etc. from Sabahuddin Ahmed. It was these maps and directions which enabled the arrested terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab and the nine dead terrorists to arrive with absolute precision at the targeted locations and further to comprehend the topography and layout of the targets.”

Ahmed was arrested from Lucknow on February 11 last year,a day after Ansari in connection with the Rampur attack. Both were brought to Mumbai in December and first named as suspects in the case and later charged along with Kasab. Ansari’s family members say they can’t believe he is capable of the crime and have vowed to fight his case.

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