CONFESSIONS of Zabiuddin Ansari, who was quietly deported from Saudi Arabia and taken into custody by the Delhi Police on June 21, have provided investigators with crucial evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in collaboration with ISI and Pakistan Army directed the attack on Mumbai from a control room located near the Karachi airport. Ansari is one of the key operators of LeT and handlers of ten-man assault team that waged war against India for three long days in November 2008. Indian intelligent agencies and diplomatic corps deserve kudos for their success in persuading the Saudis to handover the Indian traitor involved in the most atrocious terror attack on India despite tough resistance from Pakistan. Islamabad brought into play its trademark falsehood by arguing that Ansari was a Pakistani citizen and shouldn’t be handed over to India. Ironically, Pakistan had since 2008 persistently feigned ignorance of the existence of the wanted terrorist. New Delhi persisted with its demand to either extradite or deport him by providing documentary evidence of his Indian citizenship, including his school leaving certificate and family pictures. Evidence was also provided about his belonging to Maharashtra’s Beed district and that he was trained as an electrician in Beed-based Industrial Training Institute. However, the desert kingdom remained extremely reluctant to handover the man to India that its closest ally Pakistan claimed to be its citizen. What clinched the issue in India’s favour was the DNA test. Blood samples taken from Ansari family members matched with that of the terrorist in Saudi custody.
Pakistan’s offer of cooperation with India to fight terror is hollow and mischievous. Ansari’s name figured in the list of 50 wanted men that New Delhi had supplied to Pakistan with supporting evidence about their involvement in crimes in India. Yet Pakistan persistently maintained he was not in Pakistan and asked India to provide enough evidence against him though Islamabad was aware that the conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. They sheltered him after 26/11 and believed to have packed him off to Saudi Arabia to raise funds and volunteers for terror gangs from among the large Indian diaspora in the desert kingdom and Islamists in India. Pakistan’s intense diplomatic pressure on Saudis ultimately failed. This time round, USA is said to have played a supportive role in persuading the Saudi authorities to handover the terrorist to India primarily because Washington saw in this case an opportunity to bring India and Saudi Arabia closer to each other and create greater distance into New Delhi’s relationship with Iran.
Intelligence agencies say Ansari revealed significant information that goes to prove the involvement of Pakistan, its army and ISI in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. He is believed to have provided crucial information about the involvement of two Pakistan Army officers – Major Sameer and Major Iqbal – in the terror attack. He is said to have been questioned about the identity of “Major General Saheb” in the control room. LeT operator is believed to have told investigators that among those present in the temporary control room located near the Karachi Airport during those fateful days included Sajid Mir, the top commander of LeT. Interestingly, David Headley, the Pakistani American jihadist convicted last year in America for his role in undercover reconnaissance operation that preceded the attack, had told FBI that Mir had worked closely with ISI. Ansari has also confirmed that Laskhar ideologue Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and his second in command Mazhar Iqbal were also present in the control room. These revelations have rendered totally untenable Islamabad’s contention that certain non-state actors might have been involved in the Mumbai attack. Pakistan’s ISI and army is firmly nailed by these revelations.
The arrested terrorist had used several aliases like Abu Jundal and Abu Hamza that had initially confused intelligence agencies in identifying him. His name first cropped up during 26/11 investigation. Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured during Mumbai attack, had admitted having met a person called Abu Jundal. Indian agencies believe that Abu Jundal is a generic name used by several LeT cadres in J&K and Afghanistan Abu Hazma’s name too had cropped up during Mumbai train blast case but he was never apprehended. Ansari has since been identified as the Indian involved in the Mumbai attack. He got training in Pakistan based terror camps in mid-2000. He was involved with now banned SIMI and Indian Mujahideen. He was the main operator is the Aurangabad arms haul in 2006 but gave the agencies a slip. He then reached Pakistan vai Bangladesh and Nepal. He shifted base to Saudi Arabia in 2010. His identity and presence in the desert kingdom was revealed by a terrorist nabbed by security agencies last year. FBI confirmed his presence and exact location in Saudi Arabia by intercepting telephonic conversations and passed on the information to India.
Ansari has been identified as the handler who guided two terrorists – Babar Imran and Nasir – who attacked Chabad House in Colaba and ordered them to slaughter all the persons taken hostage at Nariman House. He told that not to wait and to immediately kill everyone in sight, including women. He is believed to have admitted that he selected Nariman House which housed Israelis for global impact of the attack on Mumbai. Investigators were alerted to the possibility of an Indian in the LeT “control room” after Ansari used the word prashasan (Administration) in Hindi while shouting instructions to the terrorists. The conversation taped by agencies showed that that he instructed terrorists to tell the media that they belonged to Toli Chowki in Hyderabad in a bid to pass off the operation an internal affair of India. He was also heard issuing instructions to terrorists to put certain demands before media including release of all Muslims, freedom to “Muslim states” and withdrawal of Army from J&K.
Sources in the intelligence agencies say under intensive interrogation, Ansari has revealed some information about sleeping terror modules in India. No one knows how much information in this regard is authentic or reliable. As of now, he is singing. It is up to the authorities concerned to launch a vigorous operation to bust terror modules to forestall any further attack. NDA Government had a commendable record of busting modules of militant outfits operating in north-east and J&K. One is, however, apprehensive of the UPA Government commitment on this score. No one has forgotten how the “secularist” Government and NGOs scuttled Maharashtra Police’s efforts to raid localities that were used as hide-outs by terror gangs. They had opposed these raids on the ground that it would alienate the Muslim community. The nation will forget at its own peril the dirty role Congress leader Digvijay Singh played in demoralising security forces that were engaged in busting terror module in Delhi and UP. The Congress party distanced itself from Singh’s statement just for record but never made any serious effort to silence him. Is it because he is close to 10 Janpath and is perceived to be the voice of Sonia Gandhi? Will the Congress-led Government rise above vote-bank politics and give a free hand to security forces to wage a war against terror – indigenous as well as Pak sponsored?