With India still pushing to bring all the accused in Pakistan behind the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 to justice, an alleged top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative who has been identified as a handler in the case has purportedly undergone a surgery to change his appearance, senior sources in the security establishment told The Indian Express.
The LeT operative, Sajid Majeed alias Sajid Mir, who has been “underground” for the last two years, is suspected to have been part of teams “planning and plotting” to carry out strikes in India, the sources said.
“Sajid Mir has changed his appearance and has been underground for a while. Mir was heading the Karachi project (of the LeT) and was planning an attack on the lines of 26/11 on the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad,” said a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Mir roped in David Coleman Headley to carry out reconnaissance both in India and Denmark. But the Denmark project was called off in the aftermath of the 26/11 attack after the role of the LeT and Pakistan’s ISI was exposed,” said the official.
Another alleged LeT operative, Abdur Rehman Sayyad, who is a retired Pakistan Army officer chargesheeted by the Mumbai Crime Branch for his role in the 26/11 attack is residing in Lahore “under cover provided by the ISI”, sources said. Mir is a senior LeT operative in charge of carrying out operations in India, they said.
Between December 2008 and January 2009, Pakistan claimed that they had conducted a string of arrests in the 26/11 case, including that of Zarar Shah who was wanted by Mumbai Police for providing financial and logistical assistance in the attacks.
However, sources said, a probe by Indian intelligence agencies into Shah’s arrest by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed that it was a “dummy” operation and that the suspect that Mumbai Police were tracking was, in fact, Mir.
“In its 26/11 case, Pakistan’s FIA had arrested seven, including Abdul Wajid, a resident of Sheikhpura district of Punjab province, claiming that he was the ‘Zarar Shah’ named by Indian agencies. The Zarar Shah we had named in our chargesheet is not Abdul Wajid but Sajid Mir. Mir is being protected by the ISI and Wajid was a dummy arrest by Pakistani authorities. Proof of Sajid Mir being Zarar Shah was collected and shared with the government,” said the official.
In the 26/11 chargesheet, Indian agencies had stated that Shah engineered and financed the subscription of a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service from a New Jersey company that was used to communicate with terrorists during the attack.
On Sayyad, the official said: “Sayyad retired as a Major from the Baloch regiment, an infantry regiment of the Pakistan Army. Like Mir, he was also responsible for planning and executing the November 2008 attack, and a part of the Karachi project. Today, he lives in Lahore under protection,” the official said.
Both Mir and Sayyad were allegedly present inside a control room in Pakistan, giving instructions to the ten terrorists, including Ajmal Kasab, Mumbai Police stated in its chargesheet.
In December 2008, Pakistani agencies arrested LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others — Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum — for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks. In 2009, Pakistan’s FIA filed its first chargesheet but made no mention of the alleged role of LeT chief Saeed despite the Indian government sharing dossiers naming him as the mastermind.
The 26/11 trial in Pakistan has been stalled several times. At least nine judges have been changed during the course of the trial and in May 2013, public prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali was shot dead. Pakistan has claimed that the trial is stuck because India, citing security concerns, hasn’t agreed to its request to send 24 witnesses for recording statements and collecting evidence.
In 2015, the Islamabad High Court directed the case to be wrapped in two months. In April that year, Lakhvi was released on bail, while the six other suspects remained in Adiala jail in Rawalpindi. The Pakistan government is yet to challenge Lakhvi’s release.