‘Bring down the Taj’
India considers the arrest of Zabuiddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal to be bigger than of Ajmal Kasab. While Kasab managed to prove the Pakistani link to the 26/11 attack, Jundal on the other hand holds the key to providing crucial information to the inner circle within Pakistan which orchestrated the deadly attack.
One of the officers privy to the interrogation told rediff.com that Ansari has been forthcoming with his answers. Sporting a long beard and appearing tired, Ansari alias Jundal has been to the point. He has not revealed anything on his own, but has been specific in his answers to all the questions that we have asked him. His knowledge of the 26/11 plot ranges from the planning of the attack in the year 2008 when he was roped in for the operation, tutoring the terrorists in Hindi and also plenty of details about the control room in Karachi from where the attack was coordinated.
His knowledge of David Headley and Tawwahur Rana is something that we are looking into and the details regarding these two men appears to be a bit sketchy at the moment in the words of Ansari, sources also added.
The inner circle of the Pakistani establishment which was involved with the attack is something Ansari has been speaking about. However the issue is that there are various aliases that these terrorists have used and Ansari too has been quoting the same names.
He tells his interrogators that the guidance to the attackers on the ground was provided by him and five others through a satellite phone. While Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvhi was the man who oversaw the entire operation from the control room, the rest were given orders to specifically monitor two terrorists each at one time.
The interesting aspect is the control room which was not set up in some remote corner in Pakistan but at the heart of Karachi. Ansari says that the control room was situated at the Malir area which is close to the international airport. This according to intelligence bureau officials is a prime area which is secured by the Pakistan police force. This indicates that state actors were very much part of the plot. Such a high profile area could not have been used for three days in a row without the monitoring of the Pakistani establishment. ISI officials and others in the Pakistani military were well aware of this and had intentionally suggested this venue so that apt security and survellience could have been provided to the terrorists who were guiding the attack.
Ansari tells his interrogators that while some of them were given specific roles there were others such as Muzamil Bhat who oversaw the entire assault operation. Bhat who headed the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Kashmir sought to carry out a similar operation during the 26/11 attack. Everything was done as per plan and there were no hitches whatsoever. Bhat ordered over the phone that they ought to kill as many people as possible. Try to take down the building, compromise the structure was what Bhat ordered the terrorists who had parked themselves at the Trident, Taj and Nariman House. However Bhat who gave orders to the assault team was particular that the Taj Mahal hotel be brought down. He kept instructing them to hurl grenades at regular intervals so that the building could be compromised.
The others in the control room according to Ansari was Zarar Shah who specializes with the technical team of the Lashkar, Abu Al Qama the closest aide of Lakhvi and of course a person by the name Waris who according to the intelligence is Sajid Mir.
Ansari over the days will also be questioned about Sajid Mir, the LashkarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s international terrorist. The last intelligence input that India gathered about Mir through the US intelligence was that he was kept in a safe house in Karachi near the international airport. This today makes a lot of sense considering that the entire operation of 26/11 was undertaken in the high profile area of Karachi which was again close to the international airport.
Regarding Hafiz Saeed, Ansari says that he was being kept in the know of the operation every second. He was the ideological head of the organization and all through the operation he did pep them up. He wanted the entire attack to be like a war like scenario and always motivated them by telling them the importance of the attack. He always advised us in the control room to keep taking breaks periodically so that we could keep the morale of the attackers high. It was a do or die kind of situation for those on the ground and we wanted to ensure that there was not a single slip up. At no point in time did the 10 attackers slip up and the fact that there was such motivation being provided helped them carry on the attack with a lot of vigour, Ansari also told the police in India.
Ansari was inducted into the plot in the year 2008. The Lashkar top bosses did not want anyone to get wind of the operation and the instructions that were given to us at first was in bits and pieces. The locations were not made known to us immediately and all we were told at first that there would be a big fidayeen attack. At first I was told to teach the attackers Hindi as they did not want the blame leading back to Pakistan.
When the attack commenced it was clear that two would run amock on the streets and kill everyone in sight. We were more interested in taking siege of the buildings and that was a plan that could not have gone wrong for us. We wanted to play out a hostage crisis and put forth a lot of demands. We attacked Nariman House so that we could send a message to the Israelis.
For the rest of the operations to become a success it was important that we created a distraction and that ploy was played to perfection Ajmal Kasab and his buddy partner. The instructions that were given out at first were lesser as we did not want the Indians to get wind of what was happening. We wanted to ensure that the entire police force was kept busy on the ground while the rest could take over the buildings, Ansari also told the police during the questioning.
While these are confessions before the police which cannot be treated as evidence, India still has a long way to go before it could ascertain things to be proven before the court. The voice samples are being checked to see if this is the same man who was in the control room. He will need to be given legal access and put on trial and we would have to wait and see if he maintains all these statements. Another important part of the investigation would be to bring him face to face with Kasab where an identification of Ansari would be conducted, police officials also point out.