NEW DELHI – A Pakistani militant group apparently used an Indian operative as far back as 2007 to scout targets for the elaborate plot against India’s financial capital, authorities said Thursday, a blow to Indian officials who have blamed the deadly attacks entirely on Pakistani extremists.
As investigators sought to unravel the attack on Mumbai, stepping up questioning of the lone captured gunman, airports across India were put on high alert amid fresh warnings that terrorists planned to hijack an aircraft.
Also Thursday, police said there were signs that some of the six victims of the attack on a Jewish center may have been tortured. “The victims were strangled,” said Rakesh Maria, a senior Mumbai police official. “There were injuries noticed on the bodies that were not from firing.”
Members of an Israeli rescue group which had a team in Mumbai said it was impossible to tell if the bodies had been abused, however, because no autopsies were conducted in accordance with Jewish tradition.
The surviving gunman, Ajmal Amir Kasab, 21, told interrogators he had been sent by the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and identified two of the plot’s masterminds, according to two Indian government officials familiar with the inquiry.
Kasab told police that one of them, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar’s operations chief, recruited him for the attack, and the assailants called another senior leader, Yusuf Muzammil, on a satellite phone after hijacking an Indian vessel en route to Mumbai.
The information sent investigators back to another reputed Lashkar operative, Faheem Ansari, who they hope could be key in pulling together different strands of the investigation.
Ansari, an Indian national, was arrested in February in north India carrying hand-drawn sketches of hotels, the train terminal and other sites that were later attacked in Mumbai, said Amitabh Yash, director of the Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh police.
During his interrogation, Ansari also named Muzammil as his handler in Pakistan, adding that he trained in a Lashkar camp in Muzaffarabad — the same area where Kasab said he was trained, a senior police officer involved in the investigation said.
In Pakistan, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told reporters he had no information on Lakhvi or Muzammil but that authorities would check.
Ansari “told us about a planned Lashkar attack on Bombay, on southern Bombay,” said Yash, referring to Mumbai by its previous name. “He gave us eight or nine specific locations where the attack would be carried out,” he said, adding that Ansari had detailed sketches of the places and escape routes from the sites.
Ansari said he carried out the reconnaissance in the fall of 2007, which also included the U.S. consulate, the Bombay stock exchange and other Mumbai sites that were not attacked.
Ansari is now in Indian custody, according to Yash. It was unclear if he was being questioned again, but Maria said they were working to determine if Ansari played a role in how the attackers “got such intricate knowledge of the sites.”
Indian authorities have faced a torrent of criticism about missed warnings and botched intelligence, and revelations that Ansari disclosed details of the Mumbai plot 10 months ago will be added to the list. Linking an Indian national to the plot also undermines India’s assertion that Pakistan is solely responsible.
Yash said during extensive interrogations Ansari confessed to scouting Mumbai, arranging a safe-house there for Lashkar militants and provided details on his involvement in the group. “We got everything out of him, whatever he knew,” he said….
He was arrested Feb. 10 in the northern city of Rampur after suspected Muslim militants attacked a police camp, killing eight constables. He said he was there to collect weapons to bring to Mumbai for a future attack….
Indian police are known to use interrogation methods that would be regarded as torture in the West, including questioning suspects drugged with “truth serum.”
Bharti provided no details on interrogation techniques, but said “truth serum” would probably be used next week. He did not specify what drug would be used….
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department designated as terrorists four individuals who hold leadership positions in Lashkar, including Lakhvi, and ordered any of their U.S. assets to be frozen. Also named were Muhammad Saeed, the group’s leader; Haji Muhammad Ashraf, its chief of finance; and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, a financier with the group.
We should have profiles of Lakhvi and Muzzamil from the counter terrorist analysts, think-tanks, and media outlets in the next 24 hours, I presume.
I still have issues with no mention of what happened with the Raheel Sheikh “rumor” and this constant repetition of only ten terrorists carrying out these attacks — shooting up an extremely busy CST railway station where ten bombs were set (including Kasab’s which didn’t go off).
It’s still disturbing that so many Mumbai citzens can be attacked and slaughtered in a railway station and the media only wants to discuss the Westerners in the luxury hotels (who endured a terror most of us couldn’t imagine, but still.).
It’s especially sad to hear of Muslim terrorists torturing people in the Chabad House — a place of love, community, and prayer.
I’m not sure how I feel about the use of “truth serum.” The usage of drugs to weaken one’s resolve can be interpreted as torture — and is by international law. Like any legally defined torture method, the person interrogated is an unreliable source. When psychological terror or physiological pain is used to torture a suspect, the common argument against the torture method (besides the human rights and international law violations) is that the motive behind the information induced is the suspect wants the torture to stop.
My low-credibility subjective judgment: with psychotic drugs, fact and delusion become one.
I don’t understand why an Indian national being involved is a eureka! moment. OK, it’s a discovery, but it would’ve been a surprise if no Indians were involved in the Mumbai attacks.
On a note focusing on the redeeming qualities of humankind, Sandra Samuel, Indian nanny of Moshe Holtzberg, the two-year-old son of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, will be headed with the little boy to Israel:
Sandra Samuel, who was photographed as she ran out of the building with the small boy in her arms, has been lauded as a hero by Chabad and the child’s surviving family. She expressed a desire to accompany Moshe back to Israel on a special flight sent by the Israel Air Force. The toddler was reunited with his Israeli grandparents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, on Friday.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday that her office was working to arrange for Samuel’s arrival in Israel, while the Interior Ministry was considering bestowing upon her the status of “Righteous Gentile,” which would allow her to remain in the country for an extended period of time.
Menachem Brod, a spokesman for Chabad in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Samuel was “extremely connected to the child. She wants very badly to come to Israel and to be with Moshe.”…
According to Chabad, Samuel worked at the center for about five years, starting as a cook. After Moshe was born, she also helped care for him. His second birthday was on Saturday.
As the terrorists stormed into the Chabad House on Wednesday evening, Samuel locked herself into a downstairs room with another staff member. On Thursday morning, she heard Moshe calling her name and braved the volatile situation, later telling reporters that she had been “scared, but even more scared for the baby.”
Slowly opening the door, Samuel saw a deserted staircase and ran up one flight. She found Moshe, his pants covered in blood, crying beside his parents and two Israeli guests who lay motionless on the floor. Samuel then grabbed the child and ran outside.
This story touches my heart every time I hear about it.
Ms. Samuel is a true hero who, after such a tragedy, can make one proud to be a human being. In a event defined by hate and indifference to life, Ms. Samuel was, consumed by love, conquered her fear and preserved the life of a child.