December 10, 2008 11:34:21 am
On November 26, the last phone call made by 55-year-old Laxminarayan Goel to his family in Hyderabad was to inform them that he had missed the 9:50 pm Hussain Sagar Express, and that he would try to catch the same train the next day. Goel took a cab from the taxi stand outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), while still speaking to his family on the cellphone.
Minutes before, terrorists Ajmal Ameer Kasab and Abu Ismail Khan had alighted from their cab ride from Badhwar Park at the same spot from where Goel took the cab. The First Information Report registered by the CST railway police states that at around 9:50 pm the terrorists were seen walking with their backpacks towards the public urinal at the extreme right corner inside the mainline terminus. They came out after a few minutes with AK-47s in their hands. The police have recorded the time of firing as around 9:50 pm.
An hour later, Goel’s burnt and badly mutilated body was brought to Cooper Hospital after the taxi he was travelling in exploded at around 10:40 pm at Vile Parle. The taxi — MH 01 G 779 — that was ripped into pieces was registered in the name of Abdul Rahim Abubakar, who was picked up for questioning but was later given a clean chit. Investigations and forensic reports, as well as Kasab’s interrogation, have established that Goel had taken the same cab that Kasab and Khan had alighted from.
“They kept the bomb under the front seat of the taxi. This later killed the driver, Mohammad Umer Abdul Khalid, and Goel at around 10:40 pm,” said an investigating officer.
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The probe into the Wadi Bunder taxi — MH 01 J 5308 — has recorded the time of the blast between 10:20 pm and 10:25 pm, with the cab having travelled from south Mumbai to Wadi Bunder through P D’mello Road. The terrorists who attacked Leopold’s Cafe and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel had taken this cab from Badhwar towards Colaba, leaving a timer bomb beneath the front seat before getting off.
This taxi was later hired by Zarina Samshuddin Sheikh and her daughter, Reema Rabiul, from Dana Bunder on P D’mello Road to Wadi Bunder in Mazgaon. “After dinner, my wife and mother-in-law set out for Wadi Bunder. I saw them off in a taxi at around 10 pm, and by 10:25 pm they were gone,” said Mohammad Rafil Shaikh.
Earlier, at least five eyewitnesses saw eight persons alight with their luggage at the new makeshift jetty at Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade, the point where the terrorists’ sea-route from Karachi ended. Two other men remained in the same boat and took it towards the Nariman Point stretch.
“The boat operated on a Yamaha engine of 40 horse power (hp), taking not more than a minute to reach Nariman Point,” recalled Parshuram Maher, one of several witnesses who have deposed before the police. “The other two men got down at that point and walked in, crossing the barricade.”
Among the others who gave the same statement are fishermen Bharat Tandel, Ajay Mistry, and scrap dealer Anita Rajendra Uraiyar. They all recalled that each terrorist carried two plastic bags, along with backpacks.
The NCPA end of the Nariman Point, where the “Queen’s Necklace” begins, is also the closest to Hotel Trident, the fourth building from NCPA. Hemant Shankar Dhanu, a fisherman, was in the water, sailing next to the terrorists when they alighted at Badhwar Park. “I saw 10 men in the water, well equipped. Two of them returned towards Nariman Point,” he recalled. The Trident attack was timed around 9:30 pm, with two men walking in from the gate facing the sea.
Uraiyar recalls that everyone flashed the “thumbs up” sign. Two from the group walked towards the right of Prakash Pete Marg, while the others headed left. “They kept walking, crossed the road and then walked through the iron zigzag barricade,” he recalled, pointing towards the NCPA end.
A narrow lane at the end of the Badhwar Park Railway Colony leads to 4th Pasta lane, which ends at the main Colaba Market road. On the other side, stands an under-construction building which is just opposite the Nariman House.
A shopkeeper at the Pasta lane said this was the only way the terrorists could reach quickly. “It’s exactly a three- minute walk from the Macchimar Colony. There is no need to take a cab,” he said.
An official from the Israel consulate who tried to enter Nariman House while the terrorists had taken Rabbi Gavriel and wife Rivika Holtzberg as hostages, after the firing had began on Wednesday night, also said the same. “That is the shortcut, and one can quietly enter the Chhabad House without attracting too much attention,” he said.
At Leopold’s Café, the owner, Farang Jehani, said the terrorists walked in from the main entrance. “They waited at the gate for a few minutes before opening fire at the entrance. They had walked up the lane leading to the café,” he said.
Anamika Gupta, 28, a resident of Colaba, was having dinner with three of her friends when a terrorist entered the café at around 9:45 pm. According to her, two other terrorists were already inside the café amidst the diners. “The third assailant went to the two who were already there and started shooting. Initially, we though it was a gang war and thought that the other two attackers were going to shoot at him. But suddenly the trio turned and started firing indiscriminately inside the hotel,” she said.
Four bullets hit her abdomen. She was rushed to St. George Hospital. “The whole hullabaloo lasted roughly for 15 to 20 minutes. Before leaving for the hospital, I saw the assailants taking the route to the Taj Hotel. I did not know that time that a bigger tragedy was waiting to happen,” she said. “By the time I reached the hospital, we got the news that Taj too was under attack. Only then it hit us that maybe all of them were part of the same group,” she added.
Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive by the Mumbai Police, has told the cops that all the ten terrorists alighted at Badhwar Park. Kasab has said the boat was operated by the terrorist who was sent to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
“All the ten terrorists got off at Badhwar Park and took separate cabs to their respective targets. We are still probing, and it is too early to discount anything,” said Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of police (Crime Branch).
—Reported by Dhanya Nair, Shweta Desai, Swapnil Rawal, Shashank Shekhar, Sukanya Shetty, Prashant Rangnekar, Smita Nair, Mustafa Plumber
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