‘No Regrets’: Captured Terrorist’s Account of Mumbai Massacre Reveals Plan Was To Kill 5,000

Daily Mail (London), December 1, 2008

This is the only surviving gunman of the massacre in Mumbai. Seconds after this picture was taken, 21-year-old Azam Amir Kasav began to kill.

He and the terror cell’s leader began their attacks at the city’s Chhatrapati Shivaji rail station.

They later hijacked two cars, before police caught them. During two days of questioning, Kashmiri-born Kasav, who used the alias Ajmal Kasab, told police: ‘I have no regrets’.

He is said to have told officers the cell was to seek out ‘white targets, preferably British and American’.

The terrorists thought they would come out alive and had an escape route, added Kasav.

He revealed that the ten terrorists, who were highly trained in marine assault and crept into the city by boat, had planned to blow up the Taj Mahal Palace hotel after first executing British and American tourists and then taking hostages. He then added that their intention was to kill 5,000 people.

Mercifully, the group, armed with plastic explosives, underestimated the strength of the 105-year-old building’s solid foundations.

As it is, their deadly attacks have left close to 200 confirmed dead, with the toll expected to rise to nearly 300 once the hotel has been fully searched by security forces.

Yesterday, Kasav chillingly went through details of Wednesday night’s killing spree across the city, which ended when he was cornered by police.

He pretended to be dead, which probably saved his life. It was only when he was being transferred to hospital by ambulance that his accompanying officer noticed he was still breathing.

Once inside Nair Hospital, Kasav, who suffered only minor injuries, told medical staff: ‘I do not want to die. Please put me on saline.’

And as Indian commandos ended the bloody 59-hour siege at the Taj yesterday by killing the last three Islamic gunmen, baby-faced Kasab was dispassionately detailing the background to the mayhem.

Some of the militants, including Kasav, posed as students during a visit to Mumbai a month ago, filming the ‘strike locations’ and familiarising themselves with the city’s roads.

And Kasav described how he and an accomplice sprayed machine-gun fire around a busy railway station, killing dozens of people, before intending to move to the exclusive district of Malabar Hill, where they planned to ‘take VIPs hostage’.

One police officer said: ‘That, thankfully, never happened because we managed to stop them.’ Police insist that Kasav confessed to being a member of the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has denied involvement in the carnage, and claimed he and the others were trained in the Muslim country.

Intelligence analysts are keeping more of an open mind, however. And some political observers point out an unhelpful tendency by the Indian authorities continually to blame ‘Pakistan elements’ without solid evidence.

Some speculative reports emerging from New Delhi even suggested Pakistan’s intelligence services had a hand in training the terrorists.

Meanwhile, claims that up to seven of the terrorists could have been British men of Pakistani origin, who had connections to West Yorkshire, were being widely discounted.

A top Indian official, Maharashtra state chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, said there was ‘no authentic information’ to suggest that any British citizens were involved.

The UK Foreign Office also said there was ‘no evidence’ that any of the terrorists were British.

One report suggested that one of the terrorists had been working at the Taj hotel as a kitchen porter for up to eight months before the attacks and had produced a British passport during his job interview. But this was strongly denied by the hotel management.

Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Mumbai yesterday, but only to lend their assistance and expertise to the investigation.

According to the account of Kasav’s interrogation, given by police sources, the terrorists were trained over five months in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, then had a month off before the attacks. At some stage, they also received intensive instruction in ‘marine assault’ operations.

Kasav and the nine other terrorists, who communicated using BlackBerry mobiles, began their journey to Mumbai on November 21.

Initially unarmed, they left an isolated beach near Karachi in a small boat, before being picked up the following day by a larger vessel.

At this point they were each given eight hand grenades, an AK-47 rifle, an automatic pistol and ammunition. And in anticipation of a lengthy siege, they also carried dried fruit.

Kasav told police that the group then hijacked a fishing trawler bearing the name Kuber near the maritime boundary between Pakistan and India.

A rubber dinghy lies in a police station in Mumbai, it was found near the site of the attacks—Kasav said the gunmen transferred to inflatable dinghies to go ashore after journeying from a beach near Karachi, Pakistan

Four of its crew are missing while the fifth has been found dead, apparently beheaded. Its owner and his brother are being questioned by police.

On November 23, after reaching Porbandar in the Indian state of Gujarat, 310 nautical miles from Mumbai, the insurgents were intercepted by two coastguard officers. The group hoisted a white flag and allowed the two men to board their boat.

According to Kasav, one of the militants then attacked one of the officers, slitting his throat and throwing him overboard. The other man was forced to help the group reach their destination before being executed as the vessel drew near to Mumbai.

For most of the journey, Kasav’s friend, 25-year-old Abu Ismail, a trained sailor, steered the vessel using GPS equipment. Three speedboats met the Kuber a mile and a half from the Mumbai seafront on Wednesday. After waiting for the light to fade, they moved off, later transferring to two inflatable dinghies to go ashore.

The two groups then split up. Four men went to to the Taj hotel, two to the Jewish centre of Nariman House, Kasav and another man set off by taxi towards the railway station, and two headed for the Leopold restaurant.

While his colleagues were executing hostages at the Taj, Kasav and Ismail first opened fire with their assault rifles at around 10.20pm, killing dozens of people standing at Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station.

Then they hijacked a police 4×4, killing the two officers inside. Kasab told investigators they continued their killing spree by attacking a petrol station and blowing up a taxi before being stopped.

‘I have done right,’ he told investigators. ‘I have no regrets.’

One police source said: ‘He [Kasav] was telling our people this in a most dispassionate way and responded to the horror their faces betrayed by shrugging his shoulders, as if it was all of no real consequence.’

Sources said tests on Kamal’s blood and urine showed he was under the influence of drugs to help keep him alert during the long battles with Indian security forces.

Guests who had been holed up during the three-day siege at the Taj hotel told of their ordeal yesterday.

Briton Richard Farah, who was trapped in his room before being rescued by commandos, hid his passport in his false leg after terrorists were reported to be seeking British and American passport holders.

‘I saw all the blood and broken glass and shrapnel. Tons of blood and shoes, people’s shoes, women’s shoes, men’s shoes,’ he said.

‘In the last few hours there were so many explosions and the floors shook.

I said, ‘I’m a goner,’ because it was right below me.

Eventually, we got to the lobby. I’d hidden my passport in my leg. If they had come to get me they wouldn’t have found it.’

Evidence was emerging last night that the the gunmen killed their victims early in the siege and fooled Indian security forces into thinking that they were holding hostages.

At the Sir J.J. Hospital morgue, an official said that of the 87 bodies he had examined, all but a handful had been killed during Wednesday night.

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