Kasab’s retraction won’t hinder the 26/11 trial

While the lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai terror attacks, Ajmal Kasab, retracting his confessional statement before the special court trying the 26/11 case is a stumbling block, legal experts are of the opinion that it will not be an insurmountable hurdle.

Legal experts say had Kasab not retracted his confession, it would have made the court’s job much easier and it could have gone ahead with the sentencing directly. Now it will have to examine the circumstances under which the confession statement was made. The first and foremost point is whether the confession was judicial in nature.

In this case, the confession was made before the magistrate and hence it is judicial in nature. But this does not give the prosecution a blanket protection from having to explain under what circumstances the confession was made.

The prosecution will now have to explain to the court whether the confession was voluntary in nature or if it was forced upon the accused. Had Kasab not retracted his statements before the magistrate, the prosecution could have sought his immediate sentencing.

However, there is nothing for the prosecution to worry about, say experts. The statements of over 200 witnesses have been recorded all of which points to Kasab’s guilt.

CWG 2010 was on Headley’s radar

Intelligence Bureau sleuths have unearthed yet another target of David Headley, the American national and Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who has been arrested in Chicago for planning out terror activities on Indian soil.
IB sources told rediff.com that following the success of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had major plans to carry out a strike during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which is scheduled to be held in New Delhi in 2010.

The CWG in New Delhi stands at the top of the list of terror targets. IB officials say that there are at least ten terror alerts they pick up every week regarding the games.

When David Headley was in India, he had conducted a reccee of various targets, including those which were attacked on November 26, 2008. He was also present in the control room that helped coordinate the attack. It was after the Mumbai attacks that a plan was hatched by the Lashkar leadership to carry out a fidayeen-styled attack at the Commonwealth Games. The Lashkar wanted Headley himself to survey the targets and prepare a chart. However, before the plan was executed, Headley was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

IB sources, however, add that the threat to the games has not vanished altogether after the arrest of Headley. The threat perception at the games is still very high, but Indian agencies are prepared to ward off any threat. There is constant monitoring and every alert being picked up is shared with the officials concerned. For India, the games are a matter of national reputation and it will take every step to secure the same, home ministry officials pointed out.

Headley, during his visit to New Delhi, had gone around the sites where the games are to be held. However, his prime focus was the Mumbai attacks then, and he did not go too much into the details of the games venues. He had planned a return to Delhi after the Mumbai attacks, and then carry out a thorough reccee of the area.

Security experts say that securing the games should top the priority of every agency in the country.

“We need to rely upon inputs not only from within the country, but also from other countries as well. This should not be treated as a subject of New Delhi alone, but a coordinated effort needs to be adopted. It is not necessary that only a Delhi module would be working on the games. The Lashkar keeps changing its strategy from time-to-time, and in many cases, modules from an alien land have worked on different targets,” IB officials also point out.

Build a house on Moon

First India’s lunar probe, Chandrayaan, spotted water on moon. Then US space agency NASA bombed the moon’s surface to lend credence to Chandrayaan’s findings. But why is the discovery of water on the moon so significant?

To begin with we now have an answer to the debate that has been on for decades over the existence of water on the lunar surface, T Alex, senior ISRO scientist who played a very big part in the Chandrayaan mission, told rediff.com.

Alex explained the process by which the NASA confirmed Chandrayaan’s findings. The surface of the moon was hit with a spacecraft. The resulting detonation kicked up debris and then through infrared emissions they were able to come to a conclusion.

ISRO scientists further explain that the dream of owning a house on the moon would no longer be a dream, but could become a possibility in just about two decades.

Having found water, ISRO scientists have also identified craters that can be colonised by earthlings. The crater, located near the moon’s north pole, has been christened as Erlanger. This is considered to be one of the top colonies conducive for human habitation and where structures can be set up.

These places are conducive for habitation as sun’s rays falls obliquely around the periphery of the crater, explains Alex. Life on the moon, however, may not be similar to that on earth. In face, homes on the lunar surface would resemble more like an igloo, say scientists.

Besides this, the discovery of water traces would also help in manufacture of rocket fuel.

NASA too has pointed out that researchers and engineers interested in setting up science outposts or industrial facilities on the moon would no longer have to worry about the astronomical cost of launching water or additional fuel from earth.

Photo courtesy: NASA

Christian the lion

US will ensure Headley is not extradited

Was American national, terror suspect and Lashkar-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent? This is something that both Indian investigators and also the Intelligence Bureau are trying to ascertain. The IB says the United States knew of Headley much before his tryst with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

There are various instances to show that the US was aware of Headley and his plans for India, well in advance. Sources say that the first alert regarding the 26/11 Mumbai attack was issued by the US in the first week of September 2008 itself. The information was passed on to India on the basis of the information that they had gathered from David Headley.

Intelligence Bureau officials told rediff.com that Headley was on the US radar since 2003, and since then they had tracked his movements. The initial information that had been picked up by the US suggested that Mumbai would be attacked in the month of September 2008.

The association between the US agencies and Headley goes back to 1998 when he was picked up for smuggling narcotics. A US court sentenced him, but his sentence was reduced after he struck a deal to become an approver. He was then sent to the Af-Pak region to work undercover in 2001, where he decided to cozy up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He attended a training camp in Pakistan between 2001 and 2003 before embarking upon his mission.

Sources both in the Union home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau say that all through this, the US had information on Headley. They had known about Headley when the entire Mumbai attack was being planned. However, after September 2008, the US agencies lost track of Headley and were unaware of the Mumbai attack being postponed.

What is interesting is that the FBI made Headley’s arrest public much after it actually happened. IB sources say the FBI had Headley in their custody for at least six to seven months before they made it public. The FBI chose to not inform India of the same since they were worried that the Headley-FBI link would come out in the open.

Investigating officers who are probing the Headley case in India say they are also trying to verify whether the US Central Intelligence Agency was in the know of Headley’s movements in India. The information handed out by IB goes on to state that while the US knew about Headley’s links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba almost a year before the Mumbai attack, they started to track him seriously only in October 2008, after he had gone off the radar in September that year. They were even aware that Headley had made several trips to India, but preferred to stay mum about the same.

Home ministry officials say his movements in the country were never picked up by the Indian intelligence agencies and neither were they told by the US about this man. The IB says the FBI was using Headley for information on terror groups in Pakistan and also regarding the drug mafia that was operating out of Pakistan.

Indian agencies say that after being sent to the AF-Pak region, he came in contact with several Lashkar operatives. In fact he had bonded very well with Lashkar’s Sajid Mir. After his initial meeting with the Lashkar bosses, he had attended several terror camps between February 2002 and 2003.

This is however denied by US intelligence agencies, who say they were not on the Lashkar trail at that point in time since the outfit had not been declared a foreign terrorist organisation by the US State Department.

Home ministry officials say this expose would make the extradition process a bit difficult. It appears that the US would not want this angle to the Headley story to come out in the open, and hence they may try and ensure that Headley is not brought to India.

During the meeting of the FBI officials with their Indian counterparts, the latter were told that Headley did not want to be interrogated in India. However, the latter insisted that they would go ahead and file a chargesheet and continue to seek his extradition so that he could be questioned by Indian agencies.

Headley did not share info with local contacts

Indian investigators probing the links of arrested American national and Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley into the Mumbai 26/11 attacks have not stumbled upon any information regarding his local contacts while he was in India.
While they have confirmation that he was very much in India and carried out reccees of various targets which were attacked on November 26 2008, they say that he worked by himself and was in touch with several Indians — only to use them as a cover.

Sources told rediff.com that this was a deliberate ploy on part of the LeT to ensure that no one got a wind of Headley’s operations in India. It was important for them to ensure that no one knew of the fact that an American national was working in India to lay the ground for a terror attack.

While he was in touch with several high profile personalities, investigations have revealed that he had not taken the help of any one of these persons to carry out his activities.

Headley was secretive to the extent that he did not even get in touch with any of the local terror modules or cells and seek their help, a top official told rediff.com.

All his phone call records would indicate that he stayed in touch with his handlers in Pakistan, and there is no conversation to indicate that he had discussed any of his terror plans with Indians while in India.

His conversations — that have been intercepted — show that he stayed largely in touch with his primary handler Sajid Mir and also a retired Pakistan major by the name Abdul Hashim Syed.

While he stayed in touch with Mir regarding the Mumbai attack, he dealt largely with Syed regarding his operations in Europe and the establishment of a global jihad.

Investigators say that he did get in touch with outfits such as the Indian Mujahideen, but never discussed the Mumbai attack. None of the operatives even had a clue as to Headley’s plans for the attack on Mumbai.

Investigators who have done thorough checks with his contacts in Tardeo in Mumbai, where he set an immigration office, say that none of them had even the slightest of inclination as to what he was up to.

Intelligence Bureau sleuths say that the information that has been handed over to them by the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not point to any of Headley’s local contacts in India. There is absolutely no indication that he had shared information with any local link in India.

Blore’s traffic jam foils a terror attack

One of Bangalore’s notorious traffic jams saved many lives on the fateful night of December 29, 2005. This, and many more startling facts, was revealed by Sabhahuddin, the man allegedly responsible for the Indian Institute of Science attack, during a narco analysis test in Bangalore last week.

Sabhahuddin confessed that the terror attack was botched when his associate Abu Hamza, who was carrying the arms cache, was held up by a traffic jam.

During the five-hour narco analysis test, Sabhahuddin revealed that the task had been assigned to them by Muzammil, Laskhar-e-Tayiba’s India-in-charge, who instructed them to target as many Indian professionals as possible.

Muzammil explained to Sabhahuddin that these professionals were India’s strength, and their death was bound to affect the country.

“Hamza and I met a few days before the attack and we surveyed the IISC campus. A seminar was scheduled to be held at the IISC and some professionals were meeting at the Le Meredian hotel, prior to the seminar. However, we decided against carrying out an attack at the hotel as the idea didn’t seem feasible,” Sabhahuddin told the police officials.

Hamza’s plan was to barge into the Tata Auditorium during the seminar, open fire on the crowd and also lob a grenade. We decided that we should kill at least 100 people in the auditorium. On D-day, I waited near the IISC. Hamza was supposed to reach the institute along with the weapons.

However, he got stuck in a traffic jam and by the time he reached the spot, the seminar was almost over and people had started leaving. A confused Hamza opened fire indiscriminately. He even lobbed the grenade, but it did not explode,” Sabhahuddin said during the test, which was conducted after the truth serum was injected into him.

Soon after the attack, Sabhahuddin rushed to the bus stand and boarded a bus to Chennai. From Chennai, he traveled to West Bengal and crossed over to Bangladesh. He eventually sought refuge in Pakistan.

His associate Hamza escaped to Hyderabad, and traveled on to Bangladesh from there. Hamza is presently hiding in Pakistan, according to Sabhahuddin.

“The two of us then met at the LeT camp in Pakistan. We were scheduled to meet Muzammil, who was seething with rage. He told us that we had wasted many hours of planning and man power. He warned us against repeating such a mistake in the future. We were then sent for training and I ended up in a training camp in Nepal. A few months later, I trained a youth camp in Nepal,” he said.

Sabhahuddin soon rose to the rank of a commander in LeT. He was sent to Lucknow to prepare an unit, to plan and execute terror attacks, within the country. “I influenced a couple of youths to join the camp and trained them for several months,” he admitted.

The CRPF attack in UP

“I was then told to gear up for an attack on the Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur. We also planned to carry out an attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh headquarters in Nagpur, after the CRPF attack. Once the plan was finalised, a consignment comprising Ak-47 rifles and grenades, came from Pakistan via Kashmir.

Sabhahuddin revealed many shocking facts during the narco analysis test. He told the police officials that he transported many of the rifles into Uttar Pradesh [ Images ] by train, and the railway security personnel didn’t bother to check him even once.

He termed the CRPF attack a ‘near success’.

Sabhahuddin, a student from Aligarh, was persuaded to join the LeT by two students from the Aligarh Muslim University. “They told me to join the organisation as the community needed me and atrocities were being meted out against my community. I was inducted into the LeT at Muzaffarbad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in 2000. After several months of training, I was sent to Bangalore. I was asked to study the city, identify a likely target for a terror attack and report back to my boss.

My boss gave me Rs 1 lakh for my expenses and instructed me to remain undercover. I decided that I will pretend to be a student. I got myself admitted to the business management course in the Brindavan College. In Bangalore, I kept a track of important seminars and business meetings. That is how I got to know about the important seminar scheduled to be held at the IISC. I got the names of the invitees and e-mailed it to my boss. I told him about the plan to attack IISC and it was approved,” Sabhahuddin revealed during the narco analysis test.

Incidentally, Sabhahuddin, who is lodged at the Lucknow jail at present, plans to complete his course at Brindavan College.

LeT man Naseer reveals Dawood funds terror in India

Suspected Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative T Naseer, who is in the custody of the Bangalore police, has made a stunning disclosure that fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim is the primary financer for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and also the Indian Mujahideen. Naseer says every terror strike carried out in India is funded by the D-gang (as the Dawood gang is known).

Naseer, who was initially proving to be a tough nut to crack, has slowly started opening up and among the many sensational disclosures he said that the Lashkar depends very heavily on Dawood for funds to carry out terror strikes.

Intelligence Bureau officials and interrogators told rediff.com that this could also mean that Dawood could also have raised funds for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Naseer told interrogators that the Pakistan-based Dawood has several of his men across India and in the Gulf involved in drug smuggling and printing and distributing fake currency. IB sources believe that Dawood has an understanding with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence by which he is permitted to carry out his drug/fake currency trade provided he finances terror activities.

Naseer told interrogators that C A M Basheer is a key man in the Dawood gang. Naseer said he was introduced to the LeT by Basheer. He says Basheer had told him that it was the D-gang which funds the LeT. He said that initially the funds were being used to run the Students Islamic Movement of India. However after the organisation was banned in India, they had find new ways of keeping the money coming in. Hence they decided to start a parallel organisation which they called the Indian Mujahideen. Naseer says that Basheer fled to the Gulf once Indian security agencies turned the heat on him. He continues to operate from there and channelises D-gang money to fund terror operations in India.

Naseer’s role in the Coimbatore blasts in 1998 — which targeted Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani — is also getting clearer after he admitted that he was a member of the Al-Umma in Tamil Nadu. The banned outfit was blamed for the Coimbatore blasts. The Tamil Nadu police are in Bangalore to interrogate Naseer to get more details of his role in the blasts.

His Pak dream never came true

T Naseer, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative who was recently arrested on the Bangladesh border, is proving out to be a tough nut to crack. Senior police officials from Karnataka, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — who are currently in Bengaluru to interrogate him — have not managed to get any concrete information out of him as yet.
One of the investigators told rediff.com that Naseer has made two things clear — one is that he had acted at the behest of Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal to carry out the Bengaluru serial blasts last July, and secondly, his dream to go to Pakistan was never fulfilled.

Naseer, who has been in police custody for the past four days now, has given contradictory versions during his interrogation. The officer says that he has been trained extensively to dodge investigation and interrogation, and hence, he is always trying to confuse the police.

On day one, he had let out information that Bhatkal had asked him to help carry out the Bengaluru blasts and he had obliged; apart from raising funds for the attack.

On Tuesday he told his interrogators that he was so committed to the cause of jihad that it was his dream to go to Pakistan and meet with the top leadership of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, for which he was working.

Very vaguely, while speaking about the task handed out to him, he said, “I undertook what was asked of me. It was a dream to go to Pakistan and meet with the top Lashkar leadership. I was told to go to Bangladesh and meet with my handler over there.”

Not naming his handler, Naseer continued, “Once in Bangladesh, my handler assured me that he would ensure my safe passage into Pakistan. However he convinced me that it was very difficult to enter Pakistan since there was a lot of international pressure and hence, the screening process was tight. However, I was adamant and wanted to go there. I waited for my handler to return with the documents, but he disappeared. I was supposed to get out of Bangladesh on that day, but my handler never returned and this led to my arrest.”

Intelligence Bureau sources say that Naser is a very high ranking operative and has loads of information on how exactly Indian Mujahideen’s south Indian modules work. He was a trusted aide of the Lashkar since he was able to recruit operatives with ease.

Interrogators will have to pull out several tricks in order to get information out of this man. He has been giving a different version to the story every day, and his primary aim is to confuse the police team. Police from six states have been interrogating him continuously, and are trying to join the dots.

What each state is looking for:

Karnataka: His involvement in the Bengaluru serial blasts. His accomplices and also how many more modules he had set up in the state and information on how to bust these modules.

Kerala: His recruitment centres and also the number of modules he has set up. His statements on the role played by him in the assassination bid on former chief minister E K Nayanar [ Images ]. They would also try and find out from him whether he had met with Tawwahur Rana, another LeT operative, a Canadian national of Pakistani origin, currently held in the United States.

Delhi: The role played by him in the Delhi serial blasts. There is some information regarding the role played by in the serial blasts in Delhi, emerging through the interrogation of the other accused. They would like to ascertain whether Naseer had financed or had any other involvement in the blasts.

Tamil Nadu: The cops from this state would be looking for information on any role played by him in the Coimbatore blasts.

Jammu and Kashmir: Naseer had recruited several jihadis to operate for the Lashkar in J&K. He had managed to recruit over a dozen people and send them to J&K. The cops of this state are trying to find out if there are any more such cadres who are on their way. However, more importantly, they are trying to find out the route that he had used to sneak in the cadres, and also the route some of them used to sneak out of J&K and enter Pakistan. They believe that Naseer being a high-ranking cadre has details of the routes.

The battle for Hyderabad

The decision to split Andhra Pradesh may have caused thousands to celebrate across Hyderabad, but it has made a considerable number of residents of the state capital apprehensive about their future.

While original inhabitants of Telangana region remain unaffected by the developments, it is the ‘settlers’ (as they are called in Hyderabad) from Rayalseema and Andhra, who are worried.

The future is bleak, believes realtor Sadashiva Reddy, and goes on to explain, “I hail from the Rayalseema belt and have been working in this city since the past two decades. We have always shared a cordial relationship with the people of Telangana region. However, during the recent agitation, we could feel the discontentment among the people of Telangana and they felt that we had deprived them of their right. I will not be surprised if we are asked to leave once Hyderabad is made the capital of Telangana.”

Marataza Khan, a taxi driver who originally hails from the old city of Hyderabad, says that people from outside Telangana need not worry. “We have accepted the people of Rayalseema and Andhra and we don’t have any intentions of creating problems for them”.

But he adds, “Some people from other belts, who have deprived us of our rights and blocked the development of Telangana, will face problems. There are several instances when people from the Rayalseema belt have grabbed land belonging to the people of this region. These people will face problems”.

Venaktesh, who runs a small tea stall near the Charminar, hails from Warrangal and fears that he may be forced to go back to his town. “I keep hearing that people from the non-Telangana belt will be asked to move out. I have been living in Hyderabad since the last seven years and it will be unfortunate if I have to leave make a start all over again”.

But the issue of Hyderabad becoming a part of Telangana has worried real estate developers the most.

“Hyderabad has grown considerably in the past couple of years. Thanks to the IT boom, the prices of real estate have shot up. Since today orning, I have been flooded with calls regarding the fate of investments in the city. I think it would be in the best interest of the investors if Hyderabad is made a Union Territory and the capital of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh,” says realtor Suman Reddy.

Reddy points out that the issue is not merely a sentimental one; the financial aspect of such a decision also had to be considered.

“I don’t see any sort of assurance being given by any of the Telangana leaders to the investors about their safety. This will definitely scare them away,” predicts Reddy.

Shabir, an auto drive, wants Hyderabad to remain a part of Andhra Pradesh. “Why should they take it away now? People from across the state have contributed towards making Hyderabad what it is today. The livelihoods of so many, including people from non-Telangana regions, are dependant on this state and they should not be deprived of that,” he says.

Dismissing the assurances by Telangana supporters, he says, “It will be another state for us. I think that the idea of having a common capital would be the best thing and it would be in the interest of people from all three regions”.

Nalini, who works at a medical store, has a completely different take on the entire issue. She believes that in spite of the Centre’s promise, a new Telangana state will never be formed and the issue will die down soon.

“If Hyderabad is taken away from Andhra, I will move out. I will prefer to live in my own state, where I have equal rights and am not looked upon as an outsider,” she explains.

The Muslim community in the old city, which has been openly supporting the demand for a separate Telangana, stress that Hyderabad should be made the capital of the new state.

“We are ready to continue with our protests until our dream is achieved. But there is no reason for the businessmen to worry; we have no intentions of chasing them out of the state. There is no need for anyone to leave Hyderabad at least,” says Lateed Mohammad Khan, who has been leading the minority community over this issue.

Khan claims that the government had dithered so long over granting permission for a separate state due to immense pressure from the land mafia. “Some elements of the land mafia have even demanded Rs 2 lakh crore compensation from the government, fearing that they will have to move out of Hyderabad now,” he says.