Mystery Terrorist Talks, India Listens
Police Say All 10 of the Terrorists Were From Pakistan, and May Have Received Help From Locals
By AMMU KANNAMPILLY
MUMBAI, INDIA, Dec. 1, 2008
Indian authorities said today that all 10 of the terrorists who attacked the city of Mumbai last Wednesday were from Pakistan.
Police are also continuing to investigate the possibility that Mumbai locals may have provided the attackers with logistical support, Rakesh Maria, the deputy commissioner of the Mumbai police told reporters today.
Ajmal Amir Kasav, the only terrorist to have been captured alive, has been giving information freely to interrogators, Maria said.
Maria confirmed that Kasav was part of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar e Taiba ("Army of the Righteous"). The group has fought against Indian authorities over the disputed territory of Kashmir for years and has been accused of masterminding some of the most high-profile terrorist attacks in the country.
Pakistan has denied any role in the attacks, and President Asif Ali Zardari said today he feared the incident will trigger a war between the two nuclear-armed nations.
Amateur video obtained today appears to show Kasav being set upon by a furious crowd near the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus late Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. Moments later he was taken away by the security services.
A senior Indian police source tells ABC News that 21 year old Ajmal Amir Kasab has admitted to being a member of Lashkar e Taibba, a Pakistani Islamist group. Kasab has said he and his team had more than a year of military-style training.
New details are emerging on how the terrorists were able to move into Mumbai virtually undetected and stage attacks throughout the heart of the city. ABC News has learned that the 10 terrorists left from the Pakistani city of Karachi in a boat. En route, they hijacked an Indian trawler and used the boat's captain to bring them close to Mumbai, where they killed him.
Wednesday night at around 8:30 p.m., the attackers piled into a rubber dinghy and came ashore with bags filled of rifles, pistols, grenades, dried fruit and cell phones. From there, they broke into four teams -- some of them reportedly hailing cabs to their destinations.
At around 9:30 p.m., the shooting began. Cafe Leopold, a popular restaurant with westerners, was among the first targets, where terrorists randomly fired at diners. In rapid succession, they hit a train station, a movie theater and a hospital, and finally they dug in for the sieges inside the historic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the Oberoi, the Oberoi Trident Hotel and a Jewish Center.
The death toll from last week's devastating attacks has now climbed to 188, a Mumbai police spokesman confirmed. Local hospitals are now treating 313 people wounded during the assaults on the three luxury hotels and a Jewish center in the south Mumbai locality of Colaba.
The terrorists received extensive training, possibly for years, Maria said, adding, "they were not ragtag." They also intended to escape Mumbai after the attacks, but officials say it might have been a formality. One Indian official said that he believes the terrorists knew well in advance that they were on a one-way mission.
As the number of dead and injured civilians and security forces soars, heads are continuing to roll among the government.
Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, and R. R. Patil, the deputy chief minister, both tendered their resignations earlier today.
Patil riled citizens last week when he described the attack as a "minor incident" in an on-camera statement to reporters, saying that his government deserved credit for preventing further loss of life.
It's not yet known who will replace the two men, but news of their resignations came as little surprise after a week that has left Mumbai's residents shaken and furious with the men who attacked the city and with those who allowed it to happen, despite warnings from foreign nations, including the United States.
American intelligence officials told ABC News today that they warned Pakistan of a possible terror attack, even naming the Taj Mahl, scene of some of the bloodiest attacks, as a possible target.
Praveen Swamy, an analyst interviewed by ABC News, described the situation as "not an intelligence failure but a failure of intelligence."
That failure has been apparent in the days following the attack, as the politicians running the city seem to have utterly misjudged the public mood and the gravity of the assault, some say.
For example, critics charge that on the eve of his resignation, Deputy Minister Deshmukh turned his Sunday night visit to the ravaged Taj hotel into a Bollywood spectacle.
In full sight of television cameras, Deshmukh entered the lobby of the Taj accompanied by his son, Bollywood star Ritesh Deshmukh and Bollywood filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, who is reportedly looking to make a film about the attacks.
Although Deshmukh later denied that he had arranged to escort Varma to the building, no private citizens are being allowed into any of the hotels, a fact that left many people wondering about the Bollywood director's presence there.
As the cleanup operation at the Taj hotel ended, with police retrieving bodies and searching for booby traps, tensions between India and Pakistan continued to rise.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to arrive in New Delhi, the Indian capital, Wednesday amid fears that the two nuclear-armed nations would increase their troop presence along the border.
Vikram Sood, former head of the Indian external intelligence service told ABC News that "Pakistan will probably turn to the U.S. and tell them 'Get the Indians off our backs so we can focus on Afghanistan.' They will want the U.S. to push for and maybe mediate in talks with India."
But, he added, "although India will receive Secretary Rice, it's highly unlikely that they will agree to U.S. mediation."
"Neither India nor the U.S. wants to push the situation over the brink," Sood said, "but with the anger rising among Indian people, the government will have to tread very carefully."
But Monday evening, as Mumbai residents gathered for a candlelight vigil, the anger here appeared to be directed far more at local politicians than at neighboring Pakistan.
"Politicians are worse than prostitutes," one man said, "at least when you pay a prostitute she does the job."
The fury reflected by the people standing blocks away from the Taj seemed miles away from the customary resigned "chalta hai" ("anything goes") attitude expressed by most Indians after previous terrorist attacks.
Many here scoffed at news of the waves of resignations from Indian officials.
"Resignation is not enough," one man said. "They must be punished." ABC News' Dan Harris and The Associated Press contributed to this story.