On November 24,2008,as the 26/11 attackers made their way to Mumbai,a shipment of audiovisual and communication equipment was unloaded at a safehouse in Malir,one of the 18 towns that make up the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
A Lashkar-e-Toiba team went about setting up what was to be the controlling hub for the terrorist carnage over three nights at multiple locations in Indias financial capital 550 miles away.
A wi-fi router was set up in the small control room,along with four laptops,each with a pair of headphones. As the attacks began late in the evening on November 26,four top Lashkar commanders known by their working names of Abu al-Qama,Abu Qahafa,Sajid Majid and Zarar Shah took up their stations in the control room,one in front of each laptop.
Speaking through VoIP networks,they directed their 10-man assault team as it went about its mission,alternately instructing,encouraging and chiding the attackers,egging them on,reminding them of the rewards that awaited them upon attainment of martyrdom.
The scene and cast of characters in the Lashkar control room has been described in granular detail by Zabiuddin Ansari,the man from Beed,Maharashtra,who was one of those present. The secret official report of his interrogation by the Delhi Police Crime Branch has been accessed by The Indian Express. Ansari,alleged to be the Lashkar handler referred to as Abu Jundal in conversations intercepted by Indian security agencies,is currently in the custody of Mumbai Police.
According to Ansari,Lashkar operational commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi arrived at the control room with four bodyguards. Besides Ansari,Abu al-Qama,Abu Qahafa,Sajid Majid also known as Khalid and Wasi and Zarar Shah,a man called Shahid or Nadeem,whom Ansari has described as caretaker of the property,were present in the control room.
The Lashkar leaders watched the attacks on two television sets,which,according to Ansari,were showing feed from Zee News and India TV. They initially thought Ismail Khan,the leader of the assault team,had been arrested that it was Ajmal Kasab was clear only on November 29,when the Lashkar leaders had reached the organisations Bait-ul-Mujahideen office near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Lakhvi was particularly concerned about the arrest,Ansari has told interrogators.
Ansari himself had reached Karachi from the Bait-ul-Mujahideen base in the second week of November 2008. He had been sent there by a Lashkar commander called Abu Anas,and asked to report to one Khalid,a man who has since been identified as Sajid Majid,the Lashkar commander whom David Coleman Headley too has named.
Ansari knew about the Mumbai plot when he reached Karachi,having been told about it at the Bait-ul-Mujahideen camp by Lashkar commander Muzammil Butt. Ansari had been instructed to teach Hindi words and phrases to 12 men who spent 10 days at the camp,so that they could move around in India without arousing suspicion.
Once in Karachi,he was taken to a house in the Qaidabad neighbourhood of the city,where he met nine of the 10 would-be attackers,Ansari has told investigators. The entire team received separate briefings from Abu Qahafa and other commanders,who made presentations using a laptop.
After the attackers left the Qaidabad base,Zarar Shah came with the four laptops that were to be set up at the Malir control room,and tested the machines for Internet connectivity with Ansaris help.