By M Rama Rao
The hand of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the
methodology of Al Qaeda are thereto see in
the siege of Mumbai's iconic hotels, the Taj
and the OberaiTrident, and the lone Jewish
centre, the Nariman House. Operation Black
Tornado may have taken over fifty hours to
end the siege and to eliminate the dozen or
so militants in their twenties.
But it highlighted the great lengths to
which the LeT operatives and their handlers
have gone to plan, coordinate and mount
their attack on the symbols of resurgent
India in its very financial capital.
Audacity? Yes, in a way. Because the LeT has
been content thus far with IEDs and RDX
induced blasts in crowded market places and
railway stations to inflict maximum damage
and to incite a flare up, though without
success between the Hindus and Muslims.
Interrogation of operative
Interrogation of a LeT operative Ismail
alias Zakiruallah, a Punjabi from Faridkot
in Pakistan , shows that the Murdike, Lahore
headquartered outfit with pan-South Asia
network and presence in some 18 countries,
has fine tuned the Mumbai attack plan over
The final go ahead came early last week at a
conference in Murdike. At the meeting, Prof
Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder with direct
access to GHQ and to political masters,
launched a frontal attack on
and declared that India ought to be punished
for its activities in
. Ismail was arrested by the Mumbai police
on Nov 26 night during the terror attacks.
Ismail also divulged some chilling details
of the attack by the hitherto unknown marine
wing of the Lashkar -e-Taiba. They have been
trained for months at Karachi , he told the
police. Another LeT operative, Ajmal Amir
Kamal, who was nabbed as he was injured
during the fighting at the Taj hotel, has
corroborated Ismail evidence.
Two other Pakistani nationals had also been
held in the course of intense fighting on
Nov 27 and their interrogation shows that at
least 12 terrorists reached Mumbai; the key
man has been identified as Imran Babbar.
Lashkar operatives left Karachi in a
merchant ship early on Wednesday, Nov 26.
Late that night, the fidayeen left the ship
in an India fishing trawler which was
hijacked off Gujarat coast earlier, and
rowed some 10 nautical miles to Mumbai's
Gateway of India area. Once they reached
close to the alighting point near Colaba,
where heritage Taj hotel is located, they
had lowered themselves into a smaller
inflatable boat with a 20 HP engine and
split into two groups for their raid.
Based on their interrogation, Mumbai police
believe that the fidayeen unit of which
Kamal was a part then split up into at least
six groups, each focussing on a separate
target: Mumbai's Nariman House, which is
home to a large number of Israeli families
and a Jewish prayer house; the Chhatrapati
Shivaji Terminus rail station; the Cama
hospital -a 500-bed hospital specialising in
pre and postnatal care, the Girgaum
seafront; and the Tajand Oberoi Trident
Police across Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and
Kashmir working in close coordination have
since traced the LeT plans to do something
as daring as attacking Indian stock exchange
in Mumbai to February itself. These reports
were initially not given much credence
though.. Now after the Mumbai seize, the
February interrogation of Uttar Pradesh
resident Fahim Ahmed Ansar isbeing seen in a
Ansari was arrested in February along with
seven other suspects. A one-time activist of
banned Students Islamic Movement of India
(SIMI), he became a LeT man during a visit
Dubai in 2003. His front is a small enterprise of making
in Uttar Pradesh.
Ansari has confessed to the police that he
had carried out reconnaissance operations at
the Oberoi Hotel - one of the targets in the
Mumbai siege. The idea of strike at the
Mumbai hotels and Bombay (Mumbai)stock
exchange (BSE) was a sequel to a fidayeen
attack on a police camp and training centre
at Rampur on December 31, 2007 .
Two specially-trained Pakistani nationals -
Imran Shehzad from Bhimberin
Kashmir and Mohammad Farooq Bhatti from
Gujranwala in Punjab carried out the attack
though unsuccessfully. Both are being tried
inan Uttar Pradesh court.
During interrogation, Ansari disclosed that
Imran and Bhatti have been asked to
undertake the Mumbai mission. 'I and my
superiors entrusted the task of attacking
the stock exchange to them. In all, we
formed three assault teams,' said he
according to his interrogation report.
The Uttar Pradesh police records show Ansari
returned to India through Kathmandu in late
2007. He stayed at the Sunlight Guest House
in Mumbai from November 28 to December 10
before renting a room off
. He became Samir Sheikh to secure a driving
license, and enrolled himself as a student
in a computer institute near the BSE.
All three BSE assault-team volunteers held
Pakistani passports, which they hoped would
enable them to escape by catching flights
through Nepal .Shehzad carried a passport
(number EK5149331), issued on March 14, 2007
,while Bhatti used a passport with the
number AW3177021, issued a day earlier.
Ansari's Pakistani passport, BM 6809341,
issued on November 1, 2007, bears the
pseudonym Hammad Hassan.
These fidayeens, like all other suicide
squads of Lashkar-e-Taiba, have received
special training to storm the gates of
premises using grenades, following it up
with indiscriminate assault rifle fire -
tactics used with effect at Rampur police
camp, and in dozens of similar operationsin
Jammu and Kashmir
Attacks in Indian Cites
LeT has been active in
and most dastardly attacks in Indian cities
in the past seven-eight years have been
traced to LeT, which has re-invented itself
in December 2001 to duck the American eyes
as Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Global Jihad is the
goal of LeT and its parent, MDI and its
pamphlets preaching virtues of jihad have
been found from Kashmir to Palestine ,
Chechnya , Kosovo, and Eriteria.
LeT, which is closely aligned with Pakistan
's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency,
has the most extensive network in Pakistan
with an estimated 2, 200 cells across the
country and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
Its cells have been discovered in more than
18 countries including USA , UK , France and
Afghan intelligence sources aver the LeT is
facilitating the movement of suicide
operatives, fabricating improvised explosive
devices, both independently and in
conjunction with the Taliban.
Focus on westerners in the Mumbai siege
suggests al-Qaeda is pulling strings of the
LeT, which is known for its trade mark
LeT has denied any involvement in the Mumbai
siege. It has always denied any role in the
fidayeen attacks in India over the past
five-six years and has, in fact, been
inventing outfits which are neither here nor
there, like, for instance, the Indian
Mujahideen, and Deccan Mujahideen.
This is an ingenious attempt to create more
plausible deniability for Islamabad . And
also deflect attention of the United States
away from its activities and thus avoid more
LeT's involvement is bound to cloud the US
strategy for South Asia, as Jane Perlez says
in his despatch from Islamabad to the New
York Times on November 28.
Writes he: 'Reconciliation between India
and Pakistan has emerged as a basic tenet in
the approaches to foreign policy of
President-elect Barack Obama, and the new
leader of Central Command, Gen. David H.
Petraeus. The point is to persuade Pakistan
to focus less of its military effort on
India, and more on the militants in its
lawless tribal regions who are ripping at
the soul of Pakistan'.
Put bluntly, the
wants Pakistan to move its military's focus
to an all-out effort against the Taliban and
their associates in Al Qaeda. This is to
weaken the militants who are fiercely
battling American and NATO forces in
Hard-liners in and outside the Pakistan
army and ISI, which is an extension of army,
appear determined to foil the American plan.
ISI is an agency dominated by officers,
particularly in the middle level, and other
ranks who subscribe to Islamist hard-line.
It acts independent of the political
executive with an agenda of its own in
entire South Asia , and answerable only to
the army headquarters. And also undermine
the authority of President Asif Zardari, who
is willing to reach out to India.
He has already called for a visa-free travel
between India and Pakistan . How much turf
space he has even otherwise is doubtful
since his plate is full - what with the
meltdown of the economy and Islamists
spreading their tentacles across the
Stratfor has put the issues in perspective.
'The shape of the crisis will consist of
demands that the Pakistanis take immediate
steps to suppress Islamist radicals across
the board, but particularly in Kashmir . New
Delhi will demand that this action be
immediate and public. This demand will come
parallel to U.S. demands for the same
actions, and threats by incoming U.S.
President Barack Obama to force greater
', it said in a commentary even as the
Mumbai events were unfolding in their full