Why do we ask Jundal what we already know?

While the 26/11 attack was the biggest attack ever on Indian soil till date, the investigations that followed were nothing short of shoddy, hurried and based on the confessional statement of the lone surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab. Now with Abu Jundal in custody it would Indian agencies probing him would do well to rectify certain damages and get some questions answered which have intentionally been left a mystery thanks to hurried and lazy investigation which was conducted immediately after the attack.

Abu Jundal has revealed a lot say the police. He has taken the names of the key planners, revealed the role played by the ISI and Hafiz Saeed etc. However the question is what is so very new in these revealations and what is it that has not been in the public domain? Experts and very few police personnel feel that the focus was all about nailing the Pakistan lie. While this is of paramount importance, what we must understand is that Pakistan is not going to admit its role. While the Indian agencies should continue to dish more proof against the role of Pakistan, what would also be important is finding out the truth behind the 26/11 attack, getting some questions answered and also ensuring that no such attacks should take place in the future.

Comparing the profiles of Ajmal Kasab and Abu Jundal it is obvious that the latter is a much bigger fry in the circles of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Unlike Jundal, Kasab has very limited information which pertains to the final stages of the attack. Jundal on the other hand was part of the core team which was involved right from the planning to execution stage. Moreover he was the one who had access to the control room which was guarded by the Pakistani establishment and hence he would be the better person who could explain the entire episode better.

In the 26/11 probe there are many unanswered questions that continue to remain unanswered. The Indian agencies which are probing the case would do well to get them answered. There has been a lurking doubt over the number of Indians who were behind this attack. At first the police maintained that only Sabahuddin and Fahim Ansari were the Indians, but after their acquittal they never were able to find any Indian link. Now Pakistan too has made a claim that there were at least 40 Indians involved in the attack. While this claim is very far fetched, India would still need to find out if Jundal had roped in more Indians along with him for the attack.

Jundal is a very smart operative and will continue to feed the Indian agencies what they already know. He is a trained operative who will harp on the same points in various different ways and the Indian investigators continue to pull out information which is already known to them.

The other big question that the agencies are refusing to probe is regarding the number of men who were actually present during the day of the attack. The first reports which came out hours after the attack was there were more than ten men and the police since day one have maintained that there were not more than ten men on that day of the attack.  Jundal during his interrogation stated that there were more than ten men who were roped in for the attack, but a couple of them dropped out. Kasab on the other hand had initially said that there were 30 men roped in for the attack and at the end of it 16 of them were chosen to carry out the attack. The lurking doubt arises over the last minute insertion of Abu Islamil who the Kasab’s buddy pair during the attack. Kasab says that the buddy pairs were chosen on the basis of the proximity between the two persons so that they would coordinate better during the attack. However during the earlier part of the investigation it was found that Ismail had met Kasab only two months prior to the attack and this sort of negates the claim made by Kasab that they were close to each other and had known each other for a long period of time. The other issue that raised a doubt was the count of blankets that the police had put out during the initial part of the investigation. It showed that there were 16 blankets that were carried.

The other angle that was never probed deep was the presence of a lady during the attack at the Cama hospital. Immediately after the attack a lady at the hospital told the police that there was a lady who was alongside these terrorists who shot at her. The other claim is by a taxi driver who had said that there were two men in his taxi that night who were conversing in Pashtun. Now these two men never appeared on the scene during the investigation and the angle was left not probed by the police. A day after the attack the ATS had claimed that it had found IEDs at the Victorial terminus and looking at the kind of quantity that they were talking about it became impossible that only ten men could have carried so much ammunition on them and later run around the city firing with a 25 kilogram machine gun.

It would have been expecting too much out of Kasab to give all the possible information on such a big attack. It is common knowledge that these terrorist groups works on a need to know basis. The ideologies behind the attack and also the involvement of state players is not something Kasab would have been well aware of since he was a criminal to start off with. These are kind of operatives who could well open their mouth if offered money. During the earlier days of his probe he had even told the police that if they gave him money he would launch a similar attack on Pakistan as well, which goes on to show the mind set of this person.

Jundal on the other hand is an ideological terrorist. He has had more access to the working of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba when compared to Kasab. He would be the right person to answer these questions as he was with the core team planning the attack since day one. He was the Indian face to the attack and he would be the one best to tell the Indian agencies about more Indian faces who took part in the attack. Officers part of the investigation say that currently they want to nail the lie being told by Pakistan and later on they would get into the other details that remain a mystery. However will the agencies tell the public more than what is already known? It appears to be doubtful since this probe has taken many a twist in the past and another turn would only mean we find ourselves in an embarrassing situation like we did when the David Headley revelation came out in the open.

Pak judicial commission-Is it a non-starter?

Even as the five Pakistani defence counsels submitted their passports and relevant documents to the Anti Terrorism Court to facilitate their travel to India to take part in the 26/11 judicial probe, Indian agencies say that a bulk of the proof has already been submitted.

Before the commission from Pakistan can make its visit, there have been objections raised in Pakistan regarding this visit and a major part of it came from Malik Rafique, the defence counsel. He has told the court in Pakistan that he doubted the credibility of the prosecution in India as he felt that the entire trial was one sided. He also stated that it would be futile to be part of the probe in such conditions.

Indian agencies however feel that they are already building up a ground to reject most of the evidence that has been provided by India. It would be interesting however to see the people they would want to question or speak with while in India. The rules are clear in Pakistan that they would not be able to quiz any of the accused in this case who are of Indian origin. This would mean that if a requisition would be made they could speak with Ajmal Kasab, but then they run the risk of admission. As per the laws in Pakistan they would be able to question an accused who is of Pakistan origin. Although Pakistan has said that Kasab is their national, they would think twice before admitting it before a judicial system.

The question of questioning Fahim Ansari or Sabahuddin would not arise at all since both are of Indian origin. Moreover they have been acquitted by the courts and hence the Pakistan delegation would not have anything to do with them Their advocate Ejaz Naqvi tells rediff.com that there is no such provision either for them to question a person of Indian origin, unless a specific request is made which again could be objected to or rejected.

However the bigger problem for Pakistan are the cases against Hafiz Saeed and also Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi who enjoy a cult status in Pakistan. The rest of them involved in the 26/11 attack are small fries in the Pakistani set up, but these two men are who they would try and protect to the hilt, Indian investigators point out. A large part of the terror infrastructure in Pakistan depends on these two men. With the Al-Qaeda losing flavour with the ISI, the agency backs on the two men very heavily. Anything adverse to the two men would wreck havoc in Pakistan and this is a known fact.

India has sent in many dossiers to Pakistan regarding the various operatives of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba who are behind the 26/11 attack. There are various testimonies regarding the roles played by Saeed and Lakvhi. Moreover there is also a mention of the mystery man Sajid Mir in these dossiers. Now these are the crucial aspects of the 26/11 probe and India would need action to be taken against these persons in particular as it would dismantle the terror infrastructure.

However the visit by the judicial commission would not serve the real purpose. There is already a mindset in the Pakistani judicial system that the testimonies and the investigations in India are all one sided. This itself is an indication that the material that they would collect in India would not be put to much use, Indian agencies point out. The judicial commission in India would take the material which have been used in the Indian courts and also speak with the magistrate who has handled the case. All this information is already on public domain and has been provided to Pakistan over and over again. The bigger issue is whether they would make use of the material that they would collect from India.

Indian agencies feel that there is a need for a team from India to visit Pakistan as early as possible. There have been several allegations from countries including the United States of America that most of the accused in the 26/11 case have been treated like VIPs in the Pakistani jails. There is a need for us to understand the seriousness of the trial which is taking place over there. Pakistan at the moment does appear to be conducting a trial, but the speed at which it is taking place is what causes a worry, Indian agencies also point out.

26/11- several questions un-answered

India expressed happiness recently that Pakistan has decided to send in a judicial commission to probe the 26/11 case. The Pakistan judicial team has however not indicated any specific date as to when they would come to India, but India are hopeful that following this visit a lot of doubts which Pakistan has been raising may be cleared out.

While these commissions are more of a formality, the bigger question that one could ask is if India will ever have a complete investigation of the worst attack that has been carried out on its soil. The first bit of the investigation which was conducted is nothing but a testimony given by Ajmal Kasab. The police can thank their stars that there were enough and more cameras focusing on the incident apart from scores of eye witnesses which made the job easier. However they can thank their luck that they managed to get one terrorist alive which helped them point a finger directly at Pakistan as he chanted all that during his interrogation.

Looking at the 26/11 investigation as a whole, one can easily find more unanswered questions than answered ones. The local link is one of the biggest mysteries in this case and till date none have been able to definitively point out as to who the local helpers were. A person like Ajmal Kasab would have not been able to provide this information since he was never involved in the planning stages. It is clear that they worked on a need to know basis and his brief was restricted to the attack.

Now it is people like Headley and Rana who could have provided this information, but the manner in which the two have spoken shows absolutely no indication that there was any local help. Sabastin Rotella the award winning journalist from Pro Publica who has probably researched this case better than any one else too said that he gets the feeling that such a large attack could not have taken place without local help.

The police were quick to put the blame on Sabahuddin and Fahim Ansari regarding the local angle to the case. However the cops have been embarrassed enough and more by the courts regarding the inclusion of these two names. The battle regarding these two is in the Supreme Court. The investigation regarding the local help has been a shoddy one. It appears as though the police had planted the map and when it was put up before the court it was clean and not even crumpled which raised the first doubt in court.

The NIA too which is probing the David Headley angle to the case too has not managed much information regarding local help. Headley was in touch with locals during his India yatra, but he was smart enough not to let any of them known about what he was up to. There could well be a possibility that Headley worked independtly and was not in touch with anyone else.

When the Pakistan judicial commission visits India it would get access to investigation records and also would get to record the statements of the judges and officers who have handled the case. However more important is what India would get to do regarding this case.

The only person that India has managed to question outside the country so far is David Headley and he has spoken pretty much the same stuff that he spoke with the FBI. While Headley and Rana form one part of the story there are many more important people that India should be allowed to question.

There is a desperate need to get to Sajid Mir. It would not only help the case on hand but would help India be on the alert regarding future attacks too. The big question is will India be allowed to question the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. The answer is no and Pakistan would do everything under the sun to avoid any such meeting. Getting through to either of these men would be like a dream. Although it is highly doubtful that they would speak, they sure would be in a better position to answer more questions about the attack. Unlike the Headleys, Ranas and the Kasabs who have information specific to their role, the Lakvhis and Saeeds would have complete information as they are so high in the ranks that they have not worked on a need to know basis on this case. In other words they were in the know of it all since day one and till the operation ended. India says that questioning the two is nothing but loud thinking and we would have to hope that Pakistan provides us with the details of the investigation that they have carried out on them.

The other aspect that India would really need to nail is the involvement of the Pakistani establishment in this case. There are scores of officials such as Major Iqbal and the rest who have been involved in this case and this has been testified by Headley himself. In addition to this there was an elite group of the Pakistan’s navy which took part in this attack while training the terrorists. All these are pointers that this was not just a terrorist attack, but a state sponsored attack.

These are the crucial points that need to be probed according to Indian agencies. However most investigators say that these will remain as unanswered questions since access to crucial information from Pakistan will always continue to be hidden from India.

Maldives+Kerala=Terror

An agreement with Maldives to permit its residents to stay on in India without a visa for 90 days has been proving to be a headache for investigating agencies especially in Kerala. Very recently Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh spoke about the challenges the two countries faced in fighting a common enemy called as terrorism.

Post 26/11, every attempt was made by Pakistan based militant groups to float more modules in Maldives and the message was clear that attacks would be more sea borne in future. Off late Intelligence Bureau reports show that there is a lot of influx of Maldives based terror operatives and they have been frequenting states such as Kerala.

The fact that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been setting up modules in Maldives to launch terror attacks is nothing new. However the state in India that they would depend on the most would be Kerala according to reports put out by security agencies. Groups such as the Lashkar have been tapping the modules in Kerala to keep their Maldivian operations afloat. Signs of a Kerala-Maldives link began to show in the year 2007 itself with the arrest of a key operative by the name Asif Ibrahim.

Till date the Lashkar has been using the modules in Kerala to carry out operations in the Maldives, but soon it could be vice versa when the outfit decides to target India. There is a steady growth of the Maldivian modules according to Intelligence reports. Not only are these groups strong ideologically, but they have the capabilities of launching sea borne attacks as well which is probably the toughest form of terror which India can fight.

The Male Sultan park blast was the first time that the India-Maldives terror link cropped up. Executed by an Islamic cell connected with the Lashkar, this attack made Indian agencies sit up and take notice of what was going on.

In this case the police managed to gather a lot of information through the interrogation of Asif Ibrahim who was also connected with the attack. This man who is a Maldivian national was arrested in Kerala and during his interrogation spoke in great detail about the links between the state and the groups in Maldives. The two regions are directly bound by the finance factor and most of the operations that are carried out in Maldives are funded through the modules in Kerala which are hawala experts.

During his interrogation he also goes on to say that they have launched a shadow outfit called the Jammat-e-Muslimeen which is a cover for the Lashkar. All operations connecting Maldives and Kerala are carried out in the name of this outfit. The Kerala police point out that this is nothing but a shadow outfit for the Lashkar and in the name of the JeM a lot of activites have been carried out. The problem is serious and under the guise of a 90 day no visa policy many operatives have managed to come in and go with no problem what so ever. Although there is this glitch, the police say they are taking all efforts to verify the details of those who come into Kerala from Maldives.

However Ibrahim’s interrogation went on to prove that the police were caught napping. They managed to procure arms and also funds with much ease from Kerala when compared to Maldives. Due to various factors in Kerala, the Lashkar has found it easier to stock weapons and also cash in Kerala and have also managed to smuggle it out with much ease, once again using the sea route.

The last of the operations connecting these two modules was the Sultan park bombing. The JeM which is still very much active has remained to remain low key for the moment. Although there has been no major incident, there is still a lot of activity that goes on and hence it becomes extremely important to monitor movements into Kerala, the police feel.

The other interesting aspect is the visit made by another man called Inas Moosa to Kerala before the Sultan Park bombing. His visit is part of the record in Indian circles, but there is no trace of the man today. All the police know through their investigations is that Moosa had come down to Thiruvananthapuram and met with a couple of operatives before the attack.

Although India, Maldives and Pakistan have been speaking of curbing terror activities in Maldives, it does not appear that the Lashkar has let go easily. They have roped their best operatives including the D Gang to carry out operations in the Maldives. The D Gang has in fact set up three front companies in Maldives through which operations go on.

The IB says that all eyes are on Thiruvananthapuram where the JeM is headquartered. This front is a direct link to the Maldives operation. There is an attempt that is being made by the Lashkar to move out of Pakistan and make Maldives a big base and there is a lot of dependancy on the Indian modules for the same.

Apart from records available even the interrogations of various other operatives would show that Maldives is becoming a major hub for the Lashkar. Sarfaraz Nawaz, Sabahuddin among others have spoken about the Lashkar’s plans for Maldives. Nawaz even goes on to say that apart from Kerala they were also planning on linking the Tamil Nadu based modules for operations in Maldives.

Has a Nepal operation yeilded results?

Have the investigations into the 13/7 attack gone beyond India? A team of the Indian agencies have gone to Nepal where an operation to pick up some key elements of the Indian Mujahideen is on.

Nepal has always been a safe hide out for terrorists and right from the likes of Sabhahuddin to Asfak Ahmed Shah and Riyaz Khatir have sought shelter in Nepal following any attack on Indian soil.It has been rumoured for a while that one key operative of the Indian Mujahideen who has been termed as the mastermind behind many attacks has taken shelter in Nepal. Although there have been reports of him being in Pakistan, sources do not rule out that he could have taken refuge in Nepal. However there is no confirmation that he is the man that the Indian agencies have been trying to nab in Nepal during this latest operation.

The IM has some cells in Nepal, but more often than not this country has been used as a hiding ground for such elements. Moreover if one looks at the confession of Sabahuddin the man who was acquitted in the 26/11 case, but faces charges in the IISC and CRPF attack case it becomes evident that terror groups have moved base over there. Moreover they find shuttling between India and Nepal easier when compared to the rest of the borders since movement is easier.

The police has been on the trail of several IM operatives including Subhan for several years ever since a series of blasts rocked India. Subhan however for investigators continues to be a key operative since he is considered not only to be the mastermind but also a professional bomb maker for the outfit.

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For Saba and Ansari there is no release in sight

The acquittal of Sabahuddin and Fahim Ansari by the Bombay High Court in connection with the 26/11 case has not guranteed the freedom of these two men. The two suspects were taken to Uttar Pradesh where they are facing allegations of taking part in the CrPF Rampur attack.

Fahim Ansari who emerged as the first suspect in connection with the 26/11 case also faces charges of being involved in the Rampur case. He will now be lodged in a jail in Uttar Pradesh and will have to remain there until his trial is complete.

However in the case of Sabahuddin, there are two more cases he will have to face. He is an accused in the Rampur case as well as the Indian Institute of Science attack case in Bangalore.

The legal battle ahead for these two men is a long way ahead. In both the Rampur and the IISC case charges are yet to be framed and once this is done the trial could commence. In addition to this the two of them will also have to defend themselves against the Special Leave Petition that will be filed by the state of Maharashtra before the Supreme Court of India. The state had decided to go in appeal against the acquittal order of the Bombay High Court which absolved the two men of all charges in connection with the 26/11 case.

Advocate for Sabahuddin, Ejaz Naqvi said that currently the focus is on filing a petition seeking compensation from the state of Maharashtra. We would like to complete this job first and also make Ujwal Nikam, the prosecutor liable since he had filed the appeal before the High Court in his name when it should have been done by a police official involved in the investigation of the case.

In so far as the Rampur case is concerned the line of arguments would be that the evidence against Sabahuddin was planted and there is no independent panch witness. All the witnesses are that of the police and there is no independent witness in the case.

Where the Bangalore IISC case is concerned, the trial is expected to start soon. In fact it may be sooner than that the Rampur case. However in the Bangalore case too there is a one problem and that is regarding the main accused in the case, Abu Hamza. The defence points out that Hamza is hiding in Karachi, Pakistan and till date no red corner notice has been issued against him which goes on to show the seriousness of the investigation.

Kasab: the judgement day


Kasab’s mentors remain scot-free

Ajmal Kasab may have been ordered to hang today, but when one looks at the 26/11 case as a whole this is just the beginning. Ajmal Kasab in this case was a puppet in the hands of a large syndicate of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the fact of the matter remains that the men who controlled the likes of Kasab are yet to be brought to justice.

The four names that strike you when you say 26/11 are Hafiz Saeed, David Headley, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Sajid Mir. While three of them barring Mir are facing trial in the United States of America and Pakistan, Mir continues to be a mysterious figure. There is one reason to rejoice that the likes of Kasab and Headley are in custody, but the bigger worry is that the other three persons continue to remain free which would mean that they are very capable of creating at least another 100 Kasabs and Headleys to wreck havoc on the world.

While India would now fight the appeal by Kasab in the Supreme Court, the immediate course of action next would be to commence the trial against David Headley who is currently in the custody of the United States of America. NIA sources say that the chargesheet against Headley would be ready soon and the case would go before the same court which tried Kasab and the trial would commence there. Although his plea bargain does not permit him to be extradited to India, this verdict would still be important since it does help in conveying a message. It may look like a mere formality, but during the course of the trial, we do expect some more information would come up. This trial would be very different and there will be a lot of interaction between the court in India and the US from time to time for the trial to be held.
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Why Headley was kept out of the Kasab case

As the Bombay High Court gears up to give its decision pertaining to Ajmal Kasab next Monday, a key question is what happens to one of the main criminals in this case- David Headley.

During the appeal before the High Court, various pleas were made before the Bench to include Headley in the case since he himself had admitted to his role in the attack. However these pleas were turned down and the Court decided to proceed with the appeal against the order of the trial court which had sentenced Kasab to death while acquitting Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin.

Sources now tell rediff.com that there was a deliberate ploy on behalf of the Home Ministry to keep Headley out of the case for the time being. The proof of the same is the letter rogatary from the Chicago district court which was sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs way back in September 2010. However this letter from the Chicago district court was not sent to the special court since it felt that it would add to the complexities to the ongoing trial. Sources say that there are two reasons why this letter rogatary had not been sent to the special court as soon as it had been received. One is that the National Investigating Agency was still probing the case and secondly this letter would mean that the Headley angle had to be included in the trial and this would have meant that the case against Kasab would have been delayed further. The Indian government at no point of time wanted to delay the proceedings against Kasab and felt the need to expedite this trial.

A letter rogatory is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance. The most common remedies sought by Letters Rogatory are service of process and taking of evidence.

However with the High Court now readying itself to pronounce its verdict against Kasab and three others on Monday, this would mean that the trial against Headley would commence soon. The letter rogatory has now reached the trial court and sources say that this letter reached on February 6th. This would mean that the case against Headley will need to be taken into account and documents pertaining to Headley collected by India or what have come up during the course of the trial will have to be shared with the US.

In this letter the US has sought videos, voice samples of terrorists, photographs, the judgments in this case and also the ballistic reports.

Once the court takes cognizance of the letter, the NIA too will have to act fast and provide the material that is being sought for. The NIA is yet to file a chargesheet and may do it soon since now the trial can be conducted independently against Headley. Filing a chargesheet at the time the Kasab trial was on would have meant a diversion and in turn the case against Kasab would have been delayed which the Indian government did not want at any cost.

The NIA too has some problems on hand pertaining to the Headley case. They will need to file the chargesheet in the absence of Headley since his plea bargain does not permit extradition. In addition to this there is some fine tuning that is going on as they are trying to ascertain the nationality of those members of the 313 brigade who could have helped Headley during his operation in India. Once these issues are sorted out a chargesheet can be expected from the NIA against Headley.

Fahim-Saba to petition SC to include Headley

The appeal by the Mumbai police in the 26/11 case does not mention the name of David Headley. The appeal in fact continues to mentioned the names of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin as the two men who carried out the survey of the targets.

Now there is expected to be a small twist to these proceedings with a plea being filed in the Supreme Court of India to include David Headley in the proceedings before the Bombay High Court. Ejaz Naqvi, counsel for Sabahuddin told rediff.com that he would be filing a petition before the Supreme Court of India to make David Headley a party to the proceedings before the Bombay High Court which is hearing a set of three appeals in connection with the 26/11 case.

The contention is that David Headley had confessed to his crimes and the same has been recorded by both a court in the United States of America as well as the National Investigating Agency. When the matter stands thus, it would be appropriate to include the name of Headley in the ongoing proceedings before the Bombay High Court.

However the prosecution has not once mentioned the name of Headley during the appeal. Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin were acquitted for want of evidence by the lower court and the state had gone in appeal against this while also seeking confirmation of the death sentence handed out to Ajmal Kasab.

Now there is a reason why the prosecution has remained silent about the David Headley angle while arguing the matter. When the David Headley angle first came out the crime branch had filed an application under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure to probe this angle further. An order was passed by the lower court permitting the crime branch to look into this angle and file further evidence before the court.

However sources now inform that there has not been any progress on this front and the police have not been able to establish any proper evidence in respect of David Headley. This is the primary reason why they are not even mentioning his name during the proceedings before the High Court.

The case is however mainly being handled by the National Investigating Agency. The agency which managed to interrogate Headley in the US is in possession of his statement in which he speaks about his operation in the city which led up to the 26/11 attack. However it would be a while before the NIA builds up the entire case and puts into perspective his confession and also the evidence they have managed to gather from the ground.

However all is not lost and it is not as though the Headley angle would never come up before the court ever. Once the NIA chargesheet is ready, they can always move the trial court first and request it to try Headley in absentia. The trial court can also hand out a sentence to Headley, but the same would be in absentia since he cannot be extradited to India as a result of his plea bargain arrangement that has been made in the US court before he confessed to his crimes.