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Mumbai gunman confesses to deadly attacks

Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani and the only surviving attacker, explains in detail how he and nine others carried out the rampage in India's financial capital that left 166 dead last November.

July 21, 2009|Alex Rodriguez and Anshul Rana

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, AND NEW DELHI — The only suspected gunman still alive after last November's deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, who for months denied any involvement in the three-day siege, on Monday calmly told the judge at his murder trial, "Sir, I confess to all my crimes."

With that surprising admission, Ajmal Amir Kasab began explaining in precise detail how he and nine fellow attackers journeyed from Karachi, Pakistan, to Mumbai on a boat, then laid siege to India's financial capital with a rampage of violence that paralyzed the city, left 166 people dead and frayed the already strained relations between the two nuclear-armed nations.

The 21-year-old Pakistani also recounted how he became a terrorist. Unhappy with his meager wages as a shop assistant in Jhelum, Pakistan, he became a thief, and asked Islamic radicals in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi for help finding weapons. Those Islamists put him in touch with the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Kasab said, which then gave him weapons training and eventually readied him and the other attackers for the assault on Mumbai, formerly Bombay.

Kasab's confession in Mumbai came days after Pakistani authorities handed over to India a dossier acknowledging that Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist group founded about 20 years ago by cleric Hafiz Saeed, was behind the Mumbai attacks. It remained unclear how Kasab, who is not supposed to have access to media reports, apparently knew he was named in the dossier.

In the weeks after the attacks, Pakistan had expressed skepticism toward India's repeated assertions that Lashkar-e-Taiba had masterminded the siege. Last month, a Pakistani court freed Saeed, who has not been charged, from house arrest, a move that angered Indian leaders.

In light of Kasab's admission, Indian authorities probably will urge Pakistan to clamp down on Lashkar-e-Taiba and arrest its leaders, analysts said.

"India probably will send the [confession] to Pakistan and ask for immediate action against those who recruited him, trained him and sent him," said Lahore-based political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. "India will monitor very closely how Pakistan deals with the leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba -- those who are in prison and other activists who remain free."

The case of the Mumbai attacks has become yet another challenging test of relations between Pakistan and India, which have regarded each other as archenemies for decades. After the attacks, leaders in Islamabad said they doubted that any Pakistanis were involved, while the Indian media suggested that Pakistan's intelligence agency played a role in the rampage. Relations between the countries broke down, with each accusing the other of not cooperating in the investigation.

Recently, however, tensions have eased. Pakistan is readying a trial of five men accused of involvement in the Mumbai case, including the man said to have masterminded the attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Following Pakistan's acknowledgment of Lashkar-e-Taiba's involvement in the Mumbai violence, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in Egypt last week and pledged to resume dialogue.

Kasab's confession surprised everyone in the courtroom, including his lawyer, Abbas Kazmi.

"I had no idea. It was shocking for everyone," Kazmi said. "I had no clue he was going to confess."

Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said he was about to call as a witness another victim of the rampage when Kasab interrupted and asked to speak to the judge.

"Kasab got up and accepted he was guilty," Nikam said. "It's a victory for the prosecution and the investigative agencies. Ultimately, the cat is out of the bag."

Kasab told Judge M.L. Tahiliyani that, after training with Lashkar-e-Taiba, he spent a month and a half with several other young men in a house in Karachi. Before they took the boat journey from Karachi to Mumbai, each of the men was given a bag with an AK-47, a pistol, eight hand grenades, cellphones and several magazines of rounds.

Once they arrived in Mumbai, Kasab and a partner he called Abu Ismail attacked Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station. Both men fired at people on the platforms, while Abu Ismail also threw hand grenades. Prosecutors say 52 people were killed at the station, and an additional 109 were injured.

The two then moved on to Cama hospital, where they raced up to the fifth floor and began spraying people with bullets. Authorities say 16 people were killed at the hospital.

Kasab said he and Abu Ismail then left the hospital and exchanged gunfire with police in a squad car. He said all three officers in the car died in the shooting.

Both men jumped into the car and drove off. According to authorities, they encountered more police at Mumbai's Chowpatty beach, where Abu Ismail was shot and killed. Kasab then surrendered.

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