Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Film plotting blasts found on laptop of ‘seer’


(Shankar Acharya Swami Dayanand Pandey (above), an accused in Malegaon blast case)

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has found a 14-minute film clipping on the laptop of self-styled seer Dayanand Pandey, arrested in the Malegaon blast case. The film showed around eight persons conspiring multiple bomb blasts across the country, the offcials said. The ATS is yet to initiate any action.

The 14-minute film, which was videographed at Nashik through Pandey’s laptop in 2007, is being examined by the ATS. One of the arrested accused, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, was seen in the clippings. Pandey, who himself shot the film, cannot be seen but his “suggestions’’ to others can be heard. Transcript of the film has been submitted to court.

The ATS has told the court that several meetings were conducted prior the Malegaon blast where the conspiracy for the explosion was hatched. Six persons were killed in the blast, which rocked the textile town on September 29, just two days before Eid.

A clean-shaven man, who is said to be a resident of Chembur, can be seen in the clipping saying, “We should carry out multiple blasts across the country when Muslims gather for Eid namaz.’’ He added that people from his community were only after money. A bearded man in his mid 50s is also seen making “provocative’’ remarks. Supposedly a Hindu himself, he says, “We are coward. We have to prepare for revenge. When it comes to buying a weapon for revenge, no one from our community comes forward to buy a small pistol worth Rs 50,000.’’

While no ATS officer was willing to comment, additioanl DGP (railways), Krish Pal Raghuvanshi, who has the additional charge of ATS, said, “The most I can say is that our investigation is in progress.’’

The ATS has, so far arrested 11 persons, including sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a former member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay. Pandey and Rakesh Dhawade have given their statements, which will be treated as evidence. However, another accused Ajay Rahirkar, refused to give his statement at the last moment.

A DCP in the western suburb, who was asked to take down the statement of an another accused, reportedly recorded an “unfavourable’’ statement. That statement could create problem for the police during the trial, a source said.

MALEGAON REMAND
All the nine accused were produced in a MCOCA court and remanded in judicial custody till January 6. One of the accused, Sameer Kulkarni, was handed over to the Jabalpur police in connection with the attack on a church, while Rakesh Dhawade is currently in CBI custody in connection with the Nanded bomb blast.

The Times of India, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cops reacted late to info by witness


TOTAL RECALL: C P Singh, a guard at the TOI building, had informed the Azad Maidan police about the movements of Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan after they came out of CST. But the cops, instead of acting promptly, reportedly started grilling him about the two terrorists


‘Had Azad Maidan Police Acted Quickly, CST Terrorists Could’ve Been Killed Outside Cama’

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Had the Azad Maidan police acted swiftly on information given by an eyewitness that terrorists were down the lane from the police station, the two terrorists could have been ambushed and shot outside Cama Hospital.

C P Singh, a watchman with the Times of India Group, was posted on Badruddin Tyabji Marg, the narrow lane leading from the northern end of CST railway station to the backyard of the Azad Maidan police station and Cama Hospital, on the night of November 26.

Singh heard gunshots being fired at CST, across the road from the TOI building, but reckoned that he was at a safe distance. It was only when Kasab fired a burst towards the third floor of the building that Singh realised how close he was to danger.

Kasab was climbing down the stairs from the foot overbridge linking CST to Badruddin Tyabji Marg when TOI’s Shriram Vernekar shot a picture of him from the photographer’s room on the third floor. Alarmed by the flash, Kasab let loose a volley of bullets in his general direction.

“I ran for my life and entered the Azad Maidan police station, the next compound (which is barely 100 m away),’’ said Singh. “The police station was full of commuters evacuated from CST. Some armed policemen were busy taking position in and around the police station. Trembling with fear, I told the duty officer that the two terrorists were coming from
the adjacent lane. The policemen started grilling me. They asked whether I had seen the terrorists, how did they look, could I identify them etc.’’

The CCTV footage from the TOI building showed that the terrorists arrived in the lane at 10.23 pm.

“Had the policemen not wasted time and reacted quickly to the information given by me and taken up positions near the rear gate of the police station, the terrorists would have been stopped or killed right there,’’ said Singh, now a prosecution witness.

According to the watchman, three plainclothes policemen were check
ing their “search lights” near the rear gate of the Azad Maidan police station when Kasab opened fire. “These three ran back into the police station compound,’’ he said. It is not clear why they did not report the matter to their seniors.

A policeman at Azad Maidan said, on condition of anonymity, that no armed cop was deployed at the mouth of Badruddin Tyabji Marg even 40 minutes after the CST attack began “as most of our staff had already been deployed at CST’’. He admitted that they had left their backyard unguarded despite being
a stone’s throw from the action.

Eventually, when the Azad Maidan police realised that the terrorists had left the station and were in the vicinity of the police station, their men took up positions facing the right direction. By then, the terrorists had entered the next compound, Cama Hospital. On the way there, they killed three civilians and two hospital watchmen.

By the time additional commissioner Sadanand Date entered Cama Hospital with a few policemen to challenge the terrorists, they were well entrenched. Two policemen,
Vijay Khandekar and Prakash More, were killed fighting the terrorists inside the hospital; Date and another policemen were injured.

After this, the terrorists slipped out of the hospital and went down Tyabji Marg where they ran into a police jeep carrying officers Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar, besides three other policemen.

The Azad Maidan police admitted that they lost an opportunity in the chaos that night. “We were not well-equipped,’’ said one of them.


Rly cops visit jail to identify Kasab
Six more witnesses visited Arthur Road Jail on Sunday during the identification parade of Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested alive during the 26/11 attacks “The six witnesses included policemen attached to the Government Railway Police, Railway Protection Force and a constable from the D B Marg police station identified Kasab in front of the designated special judicial magistrate on Sunday,” said a police source. Sunday’s parade was in connection with an offence registered against Kasab for indiscriminate firing at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Earlier on Saturday, Kasab was identified by nine witnesses. TNN


‘Terrorists made no demands’
No demands were made by terrorists during last month’s Mumbai terror strikes, state home minister Jayant Patil said on Sunday. “As far as I am aware, no demands were made by the terrorists,” Patil said, replying to a query on reports quoting senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh that the terrorists had demanded the release of some ultras. “From the information made available by the Mumbai police, I can say there were no demands made by the terrorists,” Patil said. “I am not aware on what basis Digvijay Singh has made the statement.” Ex-chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had earlier stated that the terrorists had made no demands. AGENCIES


Pak may seek mission access to Kasab

Islamabad: Pakistan may ask for consular access to Ajmal Amir Kasab—the lone terrorist caught alive in Mumbai—to determine if he is a Pakistani and provide him legal aid if he is found to be one, a senior official here said on Sunday. The
official said the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi had received a letter from Kasab asking for legal aid. “Yes, we will provide him legal aid if he’s a Pakistani and we are allowed consular access to him,” said the official.

He said Pakistan would be asking for consular access to Kasab to determine if he’s a Pakistani as “his name is not in the list of NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority)”. NADRA issues national identity cards and prepares passports for Pakistani
nationals and Pakistanis living abroad with dual nationality. The official admitted that “information” related to Kasab has been received from India through the US.

“Yes, we have received information like the confession by Kasab and a record of his conversation with people in Pak
istan,” said the official. But he said this information was not proof of any Pakistani’s involvement in 26/11. The official said the people named by the country in connection with the terror attack were either in government custody or were not living in Pakistan. “We are ready to take action against them if strong evidence or access to the arrested people in Mumbai is provided,” said the official. The News daily in its report on Sunday said the US and Britain have shared information with Pakistan which they believe amounts to evidence of Pakistanis being involved in the Mumbai terrorist attacks. This evidence includes a confession by Kasab, purportedly of Faridkot in Punjab province, which was obtained by Indian officials.

“Because a confession obtained under duress is not
admissible in a trial, Pakistanis argue this statement can’t be the basis of any proceedings against Kasab or others from Pakistan,” said the report. Several phone intercepts and logs of calls made from the cellphones of the terrorists have also been shared with the Pakistani authorities, the report said. IANS

The Times of India, December 29, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

A NIGHT IN THE LINE OF FIRE

With bullets whizzing past and people dropping dead around him, this crime reporter suddenly felt he was trapped in a war zone on 26/11

Mateen Hafeez
Iwas about to sit down to dinner at home when the first SMS beeped on my phone. It was about 10 pm on 26/11 when the text message from my colleague informed me about ‘random’ firing outside CST railway station. Even before I could dial the police control room to find out more, a call from an all-too-familiar number—the office board line—flashed on my cell.

Moments later, the city editor told me to rush to office. I realized it was something big and ran out after grabbing some food.

The scene outside the J J School of Art was eerie. The area had been cordoned off, barricades had been placed across roads and reporters from some news channels were busy talking to “eyewitnesses”. In the background, there was a constant noise, akin to fire-crackers going off. The eyewitnesses told us bullets were being fired, but there was no official confirmation as to what was happening.

What was I going to tell my editors—it’s a gang war...no, it’s a crazed gunman...wait,it’s a terror attack? I started when there was a sudden tap on my shoulder,but was relieved to see a couple of colleagues standing beside me, looking as clueless as I felt. With no information available from the police at the site or over the phone,we decided to walk to the police headquarters a few metres away for “authentic information’’.But we were denied entry for “security reasons’’.

A month after the attacks,
the most persistent memory of that ‘terror day’ is the total lack of information in the first couple of hours after two terrorists sprayed bullets into innocent people at CST. Gradually, I realised this wasn’t a grand design or a misplaced attempt to hold back information from people, it was rather a pathetic display of the breakdown of all communication channels—no one knew where to get help and from whom.

Outside the police commissionerate, the scene seemed to be straight out of a war movie. All passersby were asked to put up their hands and were

frisked. Even women and old men were not spared the drill, but as I was to find out half an hour later, this too didn’t help.

It was around 11 pm that my colleague and I reached Vasudev Balwant Phadke Chowk, better known as Metro circle. The only thing I was clear about now (after stringing together information available from various sources and colleagues at several spots in south Mumbai) was that it was indeed a terror strike. I tried to strike a conversation with every police official visible on the road and to engage locals in small talk, but there was little I could glean. In between, there were
umpteen interruptions from reporter-friends who had reached home before the attack began and wanted updates.

My frustration was growing when, around 11.30 pm, a police vehicle appeared from the St Xavier’s lane and slowed down around 200 ft from the Metro junction. Some journalists rushed to the vehicle in the hope that they could get an update from the policemen. Instead, a volley of bullets greeted them. A man in the jeep shot randomly from a pistol in his outstretched hand. Two persons standing near me were hit and fell to the ground. I lay down flat as the bullets whizzed past.

The vehicle sped away even as someone shouted, “Woh log police ki gaadi me bhaage hain
(they have fled in the police vehicle).’’ As I attempted to get up, I realised that the person lying next to me was dead. TOI’s photo editor, who was barely a few metres away from
me, realised that a bullet had grazed his shirt sleeve.

It was my closest brush with terror so far. During earlier assignments, I had reached the terror sites only after the carnage was over. But this time, I was in the middle of it. Everyone around us who had been caught in that unfortunate spot at an inopportune time was babbling on about their good fortune to have escaped alive.


Half-an-hour later, we heard over the police vehicle’s wireless that two of the terrorists had been accosted at Girgaum Chowpatty. One died and the other, Ajmal Kasab, continues to make international headlines a month after the attacks.

I realised that the horrific night was not yet over when a TV reporter called me to ask whether ATS chief Hemant Karkare had been injured in the terror attack. I called Karkare’s orderly, Akhtar Shaikh, to check on this and he broke down, “Sahab nahi rahe. Sahab guzar gaye.’’ The next 30 minutes were a blur, with colleagues calling up with various leads. “Encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar is dead, please check. Is ATS cop Hemant Karkare dead too? Are IPS officers Sadanand Date and Ashok Kamte dead?’’

We made our way to J J Hospital’s morgue to look for the answers. The scene there was chaotic, with doctors and social workers rushing to ambulances. I saw Hemant Karkare’s wife Kavita in one corner. As a reporter covering the activities of the ATS, I spoke to her husband every day. I wondered for a moment whether I should speak to her, but decided against it. I turned to a senior IPS officer instead, who confirmed that Karkare was no more, and added that Date had only sustained injuries.

A little past 2.30 am, I trudged back home, physically worn out and mentally bludgeoned. It seemed as though the world had changed drastically in the four hours that I had been out on the street.

(This is the third in a series in which TOI reporters narrate the stories behind the news or tell the tale of the city through the people they meet)

The Times of India, December 26, 2008

‘Give our cops better weapons’


The family of slain CST railway police inspector Shashank Shinde is still coming to terms with his death

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: “Had my father been given a proper gun, he would have killed the two terrorists,’’ said Aditi (19), daughter of slain CST railway police inspector Shashank Shinde, one of the few policemen who actually fired at the terrorists.

Aditi, a second-year computer engineering student at a
Nerul college, finds it difficult to talk about her father. “He went on the night duty for the third consecutive day and we were together a day before to attend a wedding.

At the Shinde residence in Jupiter (Dosti Acres), Wadala, a framed photograph of Shinde is kept in the hall along with his certificates. “The terrorists had AK-47s. Had the government given policemen effective weapons, the terrorists would have been shot down at CST. With such outdated weapons, you either get killed or suspended,’’ said Aditi.

It started after 9.30 pm. “On hearing gun
shots, Shinde rushed to the suburban section to evacuate the area. While taking position to fight the terrorists, four bullets hit him on the back,’’ said an officer at the CST railway police station.

“Ismail Dera Khan, the terrorist later killed at Girgaum, appeared from behind and hurled a hand grenade at the ticket counter. Shinde fired two rounds from his service revolver but missed. Ismail Khan
then fired at Shinde, who was trying to reach a secure position. Shinde was killed along with an RPF cop and a constable attached to the special protection unit, Ambadas Pawar. A CCTV captured images of the encounter.

Shinde, who joined as a subinspector in 1987, had completed two years with the CST railway police. “Four generations
of our family have been in the police force,’’ said his father, Chandrasingh (78), who retired as assistant sub-inspector.

Mansi, Shinde’s wife and an LIC employee, has been offered a job by the railways. “I had dinner with my husband before he left around 7.30 pm. At 11.30 pm, some policemen told me that he had sustained a bullet injury on his arm. I reached GT Hospital but my husband was no more,’’ she recalled.


RELIEF FOR FAMILY
A Rs 25-lakh FD by the state A flat by Mhada in Versova Rs 4-lakh insurance by the railways Rs 5 lakh given by the BMC Rs 10 lakh compensation by the railways (in progres
s)

The Times of India, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Malegaon blast: Armymen to testify against Purohit

Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has given a clean chit to the three army men who were questioned in connection with the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast case. These army personnel will be witnessess against Lt Colonel, Prasad Purohit, the key accused in the case.

“They have given their statements before a magistrate under section 164 of the CrPc. The statements will be treated as evidence against the accused during the trial,’’ said an ATS officer, requesting anonymity.

The three army men, a JCO (junior commissioned officer) and two NCOs (non-commissioned officers), whose names have been withheld, were Purohit’s subordinates and had served under him at the Military Intelligence (MI) unit in Deolali near Nashik.

The army had facilitated the questioning of its personnel by sending the trio to Mumbai on ‘temporary duty’. The ATS wanted to cross-check certain information revealed by Purohit during the interrogation. Interestingly, even Purohit was initially sent to Mumbai on ‘temporary duty’ from the Army Educational Corps Training College and Centre in Pachmarhi (Madhya Pradesh), where he was enrolled in a Arabic language course, in late-October. Purohit is the first army officer to have been apprehended for his alleged involvement in a terror case.

Sources said that Purohit had directed the JCO to rent out places in Nashik, which were later used for training by right-wing activists. The trio’s names, say sources, cropped up during the interrogation of Sudhakar Chaturvedi, another arrested accused in the case. Chaturvedi was first arrested by the Matunga police for possessing a fake ID which was also used as entry pass for the Deolali cantonment. He was booked in the Malegaon blast case on November 19.

Purohit, who is also accused of helping Chaturvedi to prepare a fake ID, was arrested by the ATS in the blast case on November 5. A resident of Pune, Purohit (37) had allegedly procured RDX and attended several meetings in Deolali to conspire for the blast.

The ATS has also arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Swami Dayananad Pandey, among 11 accused, for the blasts, which were allegedly planned by radical right-wing Hindu outfit, Abhinav Bharat.

Purohit has been placed under a discipline-vigilance ban till his case is decided.


PANDEY’S LAPTOP HAD INFO ON SIMI

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS), probing the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast, has found a folder in the laptop of selfproclaimed seer, Dayanand Pandey, that contains information about the banned outfit, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The laptop was seized from Kanpur when Pandey was arrested on November 14. The folder has several files on SIMI. According to sources in the ATS, Pandey would show his disciples how the organisation was working against the interest of Hindus in India.

The Times of India, December 25, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Faheem aide had 3 email IDs for Bangalore attack


Faheem Ansari

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Sabahuddin Ahmed alias Saba, now in the custody of the city crime branch in connection with the terror attacks, had created three different email IDs prior to the attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

He went to the same Pakistan camps where captured terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab was trained. The police are now trying to ascertain if he was aware of the Mumbai attack.

Saba was taken into the Mumbai police’s custody from a jail in Uttar Pradesh where he was arrested in February for attacking a CRPF camp at Rampur in UP on New Year’s eve and IISc, Bangalore, on December 29, 2005.

“It’s too early to say anything,’’ said crime branch chief Rakesh Maria. The UP police said Saba, who hails from Bihar, had earlier disclosed that three different email IDs were used prior to the Rampur CRPF attack for communication with LeT operatives. The first ID was used till they ordered for weapons and received them and the second one to smuggle the arms and facilitate the entry of fidayeen into India. The third was used
till the completion of an operation and to keep in touch with their bosses, an officer said. In the Bangalore attack, Abu Hamza was the main accused who came from Pakistan.

According to a source, till 2003, Saba was in touch with his LeT mentors through a mobile and used to stay at Basera lodge in Patna’s Alam Ganj. Then, following his mentors’ instructions, he got admitted to a Darbhanga college so that he could get a student’s ID. Saba had told the UP special task force that he had created the email IDs after an LeT
contact, Abdul Aziz alias Wali Bhai, asked him to do so during their Dhaka meeting.

LeT members used different codes—they named LeT “ibn-e-tainya”. During the Bangalore attack, the code for weapons was “project file”, that for fidayeen “motorbike”, for visa “action”, for Nepal “Ravi” and Bangladesh was called “Rubia”.

The net messages would be: “Aapki project file tayyar ho gayi hai, Nanihyal (Kashmir) jaa kar project file le lo, motor bike Ravi ke pass se aaye gi, Tumhara visa ka kam shuru.”

INTERNET MAPS USED TO SPOT TARGETS: COPS
Google Earth is increasingly being misused by terror
groups to get the first glimpse of targets to plot attacks without moving an inch.

LeT terrorist Faheem Ansari, arrested by the UP police in February
with maps and details of spots hit during the recent terror attacks, in his statement had conceded that his masters showed him the maps on the website to pinpoint specific targets. The interrogation report of Faheem said that a top LeT commander Kahasa asked him to show the spots in Mumbai on Google Earth. “I was shown the map of Mumbai on googleearth.com. Kahasa asked me to point out places in the city. He marked those places on the map,” he said. “I was first asked about the location of my residence and that of my in-laws in Mumbai.” AGENCIES


The Times of India, December 21, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Duo was trained in same Pak camps as Kasab, say police

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Faheem Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, both arrested in connection with the 26/11 terror attacks, underwent training at camps near Muridke, Muzaffarabad and Manshera in Pakistan where the 10 terrorists responsible for the Mumbai strikes were trained. However, the crime branch is yet to establish a ‘direct link’ between Kasab, Ansari and Ahmed.

“Abu Hamza and Abu Qafa, who trained Kasab and his nine accomplices, had also trained Faheem and Ahmed in Pakistan. The handlers as well as the camps where Faheem and the 10 Pakistani terrorists were trained are the same. We are probing if Faheem had
provided them the CDs and photos of iconic buildings and landmarks in Mumbai,’’ said a crime branch officer.

According to the police, Faheem had done a recce of more than 12 places in Mumbai, including CST, Hotel Taj and Hilton Tower.

He even got himself admitted to a computer class near the Bombay Stock Exchange to get more information about the building.


Faheem used to work at the family’s envelope-making unit in Goregaon before taking up a job at Al-Bilad printing press near Al-Qouz, Dubai, on December 1, 2005 for a monthly salary equivalent to Rs 14,000.

“However, one fine day Faheem left his passport in Dubai and disappeared. His kafeel (employer) had lodged a missing complaint with the Al-Murakkabah police station there in 2006,’’ an official said.

He was in touch with the family till December 2007, till his phone (00971508819200) went out of order, the official added. Faheem had rented a room at Grant Road as well and had paid a year’s rent of Rs 50,000 for it in advance. The money, the police claimed, was sent to Faheem by the LeT.

The Times of India, December 19, 2008

Duo was trained in same Pak camps as Kasab, say police

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Faheem Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed, both arrested in connection with the 26/11 terror attacks, underwent training at camps near Muridke, Muzaffarabad and Manshera in Pakistan where the 10 terrorists responsible for the Mumbai strikes were trained. However, the crime branch is yet to establish a ‘direct link’ between Kasab, Ansari and Ahmed.

“Abu Hamza and Abu Qafa, who trained Kasab and his nine accomplices, had also trained Faheem and Ahmed in Pakistan. The handlers as well as the camps where Faheem and the 10 Pakistani terrorists were trained are the same. We are probing if Faheem had
provided them the CDs and photos of iconic buildings and landmarks in Mumbai,’’ said a crime branch officer.

According to the police, Faheem had done a recce of more than 12 places in Mumbai, including CST, Hotel Taj and Hilton Tower.

He even got himself admitted to a computer class near the Bombay Stock Exchange to get more information about the building.


Faheem used to work at the family’s envelope-making unit in Goregaon before taking up a job at Al-Bilad printing press near Al-Qouz, Dubai, on December 1, 2005 for a monthly salary equivalent to Rs 14,000.

“However, one fine day Faheem left his passport in Dubai and disappeared. His kafeel (employer) had lodged a missing complaint with the Al-Murakkabah police station there in 2006,’’ an official said.

He was in touch with the family till December 2007, till his phone (00971508819200) went out of order, the official added. Faheem had rented a room at Grant Road as well and had paid a year’s rent of Rs 50,000 for it in advance. The money, the police claimed, was sent to Faheem by the LeT.

The Times of India, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pandey wants sadhvi Pragya to shoulder blame for blast




Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Malegaon blast accused, self-proclaimed mahant swami Dayanand Pandey, had expressed his desire to speak with coaccused sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur to convince her to take the responsibility of the attack so that all the other accused could be released, the police have claimed.

Pandey was arrested on November 14 for plotting the September 29 Malegaon blast which killed six persons. The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has so far arrested 11 persons in this case. “I am not involved in the Malegaon blast case. Let me talk to her (Pragya). I will tell her to take the responsibility so that other innocent persons arrested in this case could be released,’’ Pandey is believed to have said during interrogation.

Pragya’s motorbike was used to plant a bomb in central Malegaon two days prior to Eid. The police also claimed to have recorded the telephonic conversation between Pragya and a wanted accused, Ramji, about the blast. “We have evidence about Pandey’s involvement in the case and so arrested him,’’ said the source.

The police claimed to have records of Pandey’s meetings with Thakur and arrested Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit. It is learnt that Purohit, the cofounder of Abhinav Bharat outfit, which is suspected to have financed the blast, had approached Pandey for his help. “It was difficult for Purohit to bring 11 likeminded persons together. He approached Pandey and requested him to join hands with him since Pandey had thousands of followers in the country,’’ said the officer.

The Times of India, December 18, 2008

WHAT CONSPIRACY, ASK COPS

‘It’s unfortunate that Antulay is cashing in on a tragedy’

Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: There’s fear of politicians. But there’s also loathing for them.

These two emotions stood out most clearly in the response that senior police officials had to union minority affairs minister A R Antulay’s statement in New Delhi on Wednesday. The former Maharashtra chief minister said he could not comprehend why Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare had gone to Cama Hospital instead of the Taj or the Oberoi, hinting that there was more to Karkare’s death at the hands of Pakistani terrorists than what met the eye.

No senior official would come on record to speak out against Antulay’s innuendo, indicating how the police brass was scared to respond to a politician’s rant. But officer after officer, off the record, said it was sad to see that politicians could stoop so low as to use even a national tragedy for their own political advantage.

Many officials said they were “too small’’ to comment on what Antulay had to say. “But it is unimaginable that even this tragedy can be used for personal gain,’’ one of them added. This officer was part of the anti-terror operation on 26/11, a night when politicians were conspicuous by their absence on the streets.

Another police officer, who was stuck at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower for around 60 hours, termed Antulay’s statement as a “sad thing’’. “Cops lost their lives fighting terrorists and politicians should not use it for their advantage,’’ he added.

Though city police commissioner Hasan Gafoor refused to comment, another officer said politicians should be speaking about measures to tackle terrorism insisted of making controversial statements in Parliament.

But former IPS officer Y P Singh, who opted out of the service, did not mince words. “There are overwhelming circumstances to show that the attack on cops, including Karkare, was unforeseen and they were victims of a chance attack. Even if you overstretch the various conspiracy theories floating around in Pakistan, you cannot link Karkare’s death to the Malegaon probe. Any attempt to even probe such allegations of conspiracy shall derail the main thrust of the investigation and will block the attempt to apprehend the major conspirators being protected by Pakistan. It will only help Pakistan make their lies sound as truths,’’ he said.

Former intelligence chief V N Deshmukh said he had visited the spot where the shootout (which claimed Karkare’s and cops’ lives) happened. “I spoke to several witnesses and officers. I am convinced it was not a conspiracy,’’ he said.


WHAT HAPPENED THAT WEDNESDAY NIGHT

AN ACCOUNT OF THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS LEADING TO THE DEATH OF THREE TOP POLICE OFFICIALS, INCLUDING ATS CHIEF HEMANT KARKARE, ON 26/11
At 9.50 pm on November 26, two terrorists (Ismail and Kasab) wielding AK-47s enter the outstation section of CST through the GPO entrance
After killing several people in the concourse, the terrorists enter the lane alongside the Times of India office. They continue down the alley, slink past the rear of Azad Maidan police station and reach the rear of Cama hospital, where they jump a gate. They shoot at a lady on the first floor. They walk to the front of the hospital and shoot 2 watchmen dead. They take the stairs to the fifth floor, take a hospital employee hostage and go to the terrace
They return to the 6th floor. Since cops are on the fifth floor, they send the hostage down. He requests the police not to shoot. The terrorists hurl a grenade; the hostage and others are injured, including an IPS officer. The terrorists re-enter the lane and head to a chawl where they kill two people
The duo then walks out of Cama Hospital, and zeroes in on a Honda city. They shoot at the car driver, injuring him in the hand
The two terrorists then hear the sound of an approaching vehicle. It’s a police Qualis carrying ATS chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, Addl Comm A Kamthe, an API and and three constables. The two open fire at the Qualis
All occupants except API Arun Jadhav die in the firing. The terrorists pull out the bodies of the top cops and speed away with the Qualis

The Times of India, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blast accused in cop custody

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Ajay Rahirkar, treasurer of the Abhinav Bharat outfit, one of the 11 accused in the Malegaon September 29 bomb blast case, was on Tuesday sent to police custody till December 20 for his alleged role in the blast.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) slapped the stringent law, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on the perpetrators of the textile town blast on November 20. The police on Tuesday sought Rahirkar’s custody under the provisions of the MCOCA. Rahirkar, who is originally from Pune, was arrested on November 2 along with antique dealer Rakesh Dhawde and his accomplice Jagdish Mhatre. The trio was termed as the “fund-raiser’’ for the Malegaon blast and the police had alleged that money floated by them was used for the blast which killed six.

“We sought his custody for further investigation as the probe has revealed his involvement in the case. The court was satisfied with the material provided to it and remanded Rahirkar to police custody up to December 20,’’ said special public prosecutor Rohini Salian.

About the funding of the terror strike in Malegaon and other transactions, an official said, “Rahirkar had given a huge amount of money to self-proclaimed swami Dayanand Pandey and we are investigating if it was used to procure the RDX as well as explosives used in the blast.’’ The police claim to have recovered two unused timers from the other arrested accused.

The ATS earlier said that around Rs 10 lakh was collected for the Malegaon terror strike while another Rs 10 lakh was distributed via the hawala route. “Rahirkar transferred a huge sum to arrested serving Lt Col Purohit. The police are probing why the money was given to Purohit who was working in the military’s intelligence wing. Rahirkar also paid Rs 3.95 lakh to Purohit in December 2007,’’ a police official said. Police sources said that Rahirkar knew several hawala operators and they were under their scanner.

The ATS is likely to arrest a Nashikbased builder in this case. “Rahirkar had paid Rs 2.5 lakh to the builder,’’ said an official.


9 others in judicial custody till Dec 29

Former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad member, sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Purohit, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Dayanand Pandey, Shamlal Sahu, Shivnarayan Singh, Sameer Kulkarni, Jagdish Mhatre and Sudhakar Chaturvedi, all suspects in the Malegaon blast, have been sent to judicial custody till December 29. TNN

The Times of India, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Police hope to get more info on terror groups from Ansari

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Lashkar-e-Taiba ope r at ive, Fa h e e m Ansari, will be brought to the city on Monday by the city crime branch as part of the investigations to ascertain whether he had knowledge about the 26/11 terror module. “We will bring Ansari to Mumbai tomorrow,” said crime branch chief Rakesh Maria.

Both Ansari and Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist in crime branch custody, had been trained by the LeT in Pakistan. The crime branch is also probing if any other suspect had been trained near Manshera, Muzaffarabad, and Muridke in Pakistan where Kasab was trained for 26/11.

Ansari is currently in an Uttar Pradesh jail in connection with an attack on the CRPF camp at Rampur in January. He came under the scanner after investigation revealed that he had done a recce of Taj, Oberoi, Mantralaya,
police commissioner’s office and state police headquarters.

“We want to establish if Ansari had done the recce, identifying the targets for Kasab’s group, which was responsible for the recent attacks. If Ansari has been working for another module, we will gather more details about

their plans,’’ said a crime branch officer.

The crime branch, with the help of the state intelligence department, is now examining a list of suspects who are believed to have undergone training in the Pakistani camps in the past. Kasab had told the police that he was trained by Saifur Rehmand,
Abu Safa and Muzammil.

While the police suspect that the Pakistani terrorists might have got some local support, the suspected involvement of some trained Indian youths in the attack will help the investigators unearth a bigger conspiracy, said police.

There are reportedly at least six camps at Punjab in Pakistan where new recruits are trained. It is worth noting that those caught for the July 11, 2006, serial bomb blasts on Mumbai’s local trains, had undergone terror training in Bahawalpur camps in Pakistan between Jaunary 2003 and May 2006. The prime suspect in the 7/11 train blasts case, Faisal Shaikh, was trained twice. This module, which is alleged to have engineered the train blasts, had gone to Pakistan via Tehran and attended a month-long training.

At least two suspects caught for the Malegaon 2006 blast underwent terror training in camps near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan. They had travelled to Pakistan via Dubai and returned to India via Nepal, said an officer.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

The Times of India, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

LeT sent veteran combatants to city


Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Lashkar-e-Taiba appears to have picked its most experienced combatants for the Mumbai operation. Top police officials on Saturday revealed that at least three of the 10 terrorists were veterans of previous attacks, most likely in Kashmir Valley and Afghanistan.

However, they refused to disclose which these attacks were. When asked, crime branch chief Rakesh Maria, declined comment although he did not deny it.

Maria said the terrorists were trained at four places—Manshera, Muridke, Muzaffarabad and near Karachi. During the last three months of training, they were not allowed to meet anyone from the outside world; they were briefed by their
handlers about their targets on a regular basis. They were also shown clippings and photos of their target,’’ he stated.

Maria said the terrorists had bought the dinghy in Pakistan, which he estimated would have cost around Rs 15 lakh. “While the terrorists were travelling in Kuber they had distributed their duties like standing on the watch tower to keep surveillance, keeping tabs on the activity of the navigator so that he could not alert the navy authorities, etc. A diary, containing details of twohourly duty distribution, has been seized,’’ added the joint commissioner of police.

He said the terrorists had forgotten to collect a satellite phone and it was lying in Kuber while another was kept in Ismail’s bag.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

WARZONE: On November 26, terrorists opened fire at CST, killing several people

The Times of India, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Kasav holds key to terror chatter


S Ahmed Ali & Vijay V Singh | TNN

Mumbai: “Hamne tumhare chaar bakre juba kardiye hai. (We have sacrificed your four goats),’’ said the caller, who was talking from Pakistan’s waters. The goats refer to the four fishermen of the ill-fated trawler, Kuber. At the other end, the terrorist who had entered Indian waters, asked, “Is bakre ka kya kare? (What should be done about this goat?)’’ He was referring to the Kuber skipper, Amar Narayan Solanki. The other side replied, “Barabar waqt par tum bhi juba kardo. (Sacrifice it at appropriate time).’’

These were a few code words used by the terrorists while communicating with each other on their satellite phones. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau, on Friday, said that the terrorists not only underwent an endurance training programme, but were also taught to use code words to evade any sus
picion. “A central agency has forwarded us a CD containing few tapped conversations, which have to be decoded with the help of Kasav,’’ said a police officer.

Kasav was the lone terrorist caught alive by the Mumbai police on November 26. He has reportedly informed his interroga
tors that he was given details of the target only a few days before they set out from Karachi. Kasav and his partner Ismail Khan were assigned to attack CST. “Kasav and the nine other terrorists were supposed to leave for Mumbai in September. But the plan was postponed for reasons not known to Kasav. The LeT leaders were afraid the plan would be leaked,’’ the officer said.

Kasav told the interrogators that of the 31 terrorists trained, he was the only one from his batch who was chosen for the Mumbai attack. The training was divided into several parts, like Darz (phys
ical fitness), and Khidmat, where they were given lectures on the Babri Masjid demolition and Godhra riots. The 10 terrorists, who were finally chosen, were divided into five groups, each comprising two members. Each group was briefed separately; no group was aware of the other’s targets.

The police are also following leads on the local angle, to see if any Indian youth had been trained at the same camp, near Manshera, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, where Kasav underwent his training. The crime branch, along with the state intelligence department, is examining a list
of suspects who were trained at camps in and around Pakistan in the past. Sources said there are at least six training camps in the Punjab province, where new recruits are trained.

In Thane, the police are following on yet another lead. On Friday, the sketches of two people, who they believe could have been a part of the terrorist group, was released. The artist’s impression of the two youth was based on information by an autorickshaw driver who claimed to have ferried them from Vaishali Nagar check naka in Mulund to the Kapurbawdi bus stand at around 10pm
on November 26. The driver, whose identity is being guarded, told the police that the two seemed to be in a tearing hurry to reach their destination, Borivli. Both were carrying haversacks. They had insisted he take them via the Ghodbunder route. He said that they were on the cellphone, and were informing the person on the other side, “Kaam ho gaya. Ham log Borivli ja rahein hain. (The work has been accomplished. We are now headed for Borivli).’’ The two were said to be speaking in Hindi sprinkled with Urdu words.
With inputs from Nitin Yeshwantrao & Mateen Hafeez


Taj chef succumbs to injury
Hemant Talim, a 26-year-old senior chef at Golden Dragon, the Chinese restaurant at the Taj, died of his wounds on Thursday. Talim, who was shot thrice during the terror attack on the Taj, had been admitted to Bombay Hospital. Talim had been unconscious since he was taken to hospital. His funeral will be held on Sunday. “He was a nice person and extremely friendly,’’ said Pravin Parikh, who lives in the same housing society as Talim in Borivli. Talim was an only son and was unmarried. He usually stayed at the hotel and came home to his father, Pravin Talim, only once a week. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Talim had been working at the Taj for the past four years. TNN

ASI may help to restore hotel
Culture minister Ambika Soni has offered the help of Archaeological Survey of India in restoring Taj Mahal hotel, a heritage building. In a letter to Tata group chairperson Ratan Tata after the terrorist attack led to extensive damage to the old wing of the hotel, Soni offered ASI’s help. She told Tata that ASI had expertise in conservation work. Officials said ASI’s preservation and conservation wing had done commendable work in restoring ancient sites in India, some of which have made it to the world heritage list. It has also helped restore Bamiyan in Afghanistan and Angkor Vat in Cambodia. TNN

The Times of India, December 6, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Voyage with terrorists was Al-Husseini’s sixth to India



Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Al-Husseini, in which the 10 Pak-based terrorists sailed to India, had been stationed in Dubai for a week before heading for India en route Karachi, said sources.

The ship had visited India at least four times in 2007 and its latest visit (November 26, 2008) was the second to the Indian sea this year, it is learnt.

Sources in the police said the ship was carrying around 200 passengers and the most of them were picked up from Dubai. Some of them got down in Pakistan and that was the time when a batch of more than 10 terrorists got into the ship and headed for India.

While no crime branch officer was willing to go on record, senior officers confirmed that the ship has travelled to Indian territory for the sixth time in the last two years. The police are also questioning Ajmal Kasav (21),
the only terrorist captured alive, about the terrorists who did not come to India and headed for another destination in Al-Husseini on November 26.

Kasav, during the interrogation, told the police that they were to come to Mumbai in the month of Ramzan but their plan got postponed as three-four youths, selected for the Mumbai terror operation, were not physically fit and suffering from fever. Kasav also told the investigators that they were declared fit a few days
prior to their departure.

Kasav told the police that the day they left Pakistan, they were asked to be martyrs, and told their families would be proud of them. “I started as a petty criminal and would focus on earning some money through illegal means for my living. My father threw me out of the house for committing petty crimes. On the occasion of Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakri Eid) last year, I went to buy a weapon along with an accomplice where I met an LeT operative who promised to
train me in operating firearms and handling sophisticated weapons. We thought it would help us in our ‘profession’ and we agreed to join a training camp,’’ Kasav is believed to have told the crime branch.

Kasav, the third among five siblings, had a notorious record in his home town, Ukara district of Faridkot in Pakistan. His eldest brother Afzal (25) works as a labourer in Rawalpindi, elder sister Ruqaiyya (22) is married while another sister Suraiyya (14) helps her mother in domestic work. The youngest brother, Munir Kasav, is just 11 years old.

Investigations have revealed that Kasav was promised more money than what he had initially told the police. Kasav met LeT operatives on December 21, 2007, in Rawalpindi along friend Muzaffar Lal Khan and it was there that he first visited the Jamaat-ut-Dawa, the political wing of the LeT.

The Times of India, December 4, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cops sealed CST duo’s fate

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: According to police sources, after attacking CST, the two terrorists had planned to escape by blending into the crowd. The police are also looking into whether the terrorists had chalked out an escape plan to return to Pakistan by sea. “After the attack, they wanted to steer clear of the police. This is probably the reason why the duo entered the bylane leading to the rear of Cama and Albless Hospital. By then, the police had cordoned off the areas,’’ said a senior police officer. The two terrorists, however, had no plans of carrying out another attack.

Meanwhile, the intelligence bureau and the Mumbai police maintained that only 10 terrorists landed in Mumbai. “All the terrorists have been accounted for,’’ said a police officer. The Coast Guard, too, confirmed this fact. A senior Coast Guard official said they found only 10 life
jackets in the trawler, Kuber. They also found some toiletries and blankets in the trawler.

The police is investigating the possibility of locals providing logistical support to the terrorists. The crime branch is now widening its investigation with the possible involvement of around five to six people—two of whom were trained in Pakistan, and named by LeT operative, Faheem Ansari, who was arrested by the UP police in February.

The terrorists attacked Nariman House in Colaba, which is located in a congested lane. “The attack on Nariman House, which was frequented by Israeli nationals, needed local support as the terrorists perhaps knew the exact location of the building,’’ said an officer.

Moreover, the bombs planted in the two taxis—one at Wadi Bundar, and the other at Vile Parle—killed at least three people. According to IB sources, the terrorists left RDX bombs with timers in the taxis.

The Times of India, December 2, 2008

Satphone links terrorists to LeT man held in UP

PROBE GATHERS STEAM

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Investigation into the 26/11 terror attack revealed that the satellite phone seized from Ismail, one of the attackers, contained a specific Pakistan-based mobile number that had cropped up during the interrogation of Faheem Ahmed Ansari, a Mumbai-based Lashkar-e-Taiba operative earlier this year.

Sources said a joint intelligence committee had, on November 19, sent a message to the Coast Guard and other authorities saying they had intercepted a telephonic conversation in which the caller had
said, “Hum pahunch rehe hain (we are reaching)’’. The suspicious call was decoded and an alert sent to the authorities.

The city crime branch dialled the number and the person on the other side asked in Urdu, “Who is speaking?’’, to which the officer replied, “Allah ka banda.’’ Hearing this, the receiver hung up.

The satphone, which contains several international numbers, had a cellphone number on which Ansari (35), an LeT operative, had made several calls before he was arrested in February by the UP special task force. The satphone’s call records are being analysed.


Ansari was also accused of doing a recce of more than 12 places in Mumbai for two months. These included Taj Mahal Palace, Oberoi, police commissioner’s office, state police headquarters and Churchgate station.

Following Ansari’s revelations, the ATS, which later arrested Ansari, stated that an organised and well-planned strategy was being adopted by the LeT to target the country’s financial capital.

Ansari had also disclosed that LeT was planning a “severe terror strike” in Mumbai and that he had been asked to look for two safe-houses, one
for himself and another to store weapons. Crime branch chief Rakesh Maria had said the militants were to return after taking hostages with them. It is also learnt that the Global Positioning System on Kuber, the boat reportedly used by the 10 terrorists, had a set time of 11.30 pm (Friday) in its clock.

The police said a resident of Motilal Nagar in Goregaon, Ansari spent six months at a training camp in Pakistan’s Muzaffarabad after he went missing from Dubai where he was employed in a press.

Ansari, who was later brought to the city by the ATS, had revealed that two more Mumbai-based youths attended a training camp in Pakistan
and were currently missing from the city. The ATS had in February stated that Ansari had also brainwashed at least half-a-dozen youths from Mumbai. Not a single of them was, however, arrested.

The crime branch, which is probing terror case, may seek Ansari’s custody from a UP court for inquiry.

The police suspect that the “missing trained youths’’ could be a part of the local group that provided support in terms of logistics to the 10 terrorists who entered Mumbai on November 26.

Meanwhile, arrested terrorist Ajmal has told the in
vestigators in detail about the direct involvement of Zakiur Rahman, alias Chachu, in the assault on Mumbai. Zakiur, one of the seniormost Amirs of Lashkar, has so far been known for keeping a distance from the cells that the terrorist outfit routinely sends to cause mayhem in India.

In this instance, Chachu—called so because of his seniority—was at hand to see off the group when Ajmal and his fellow jihadis set out from Karachi’s Azizabad to strike at Mumbai. ATS sources said Zakiur’s involvement underlines the importance Lashkar attached to the terror strike.

The Times of India, December 2, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ten terrorists entered Mum on 26/11: Cops

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The city crime branch probing the terror attack on Saturday confirmed that only 10 terrorists had entered the city just an hour before the hostage drama unfolded on November 26. While nine of them were killed in encounter, a 21-yearold was captured alive. Arms and ammunition brought in by the terrorists was enough to kill around 5,000 people, said police. Cops officially put toll at 162, including 18 foreign nationals.

The arrested terrorist, Ajmal Mohammed Amir Kasab, resident of Faridkot village in Pakistani Punjab’s Ukada district, told investigators all the terrorists had come from Karachi, police said.

They had come in a ship and used a boat to come to the shore, said the police. “Four Indians were already on the boat and the terrorists killed three of them while they used one, Amar Narayan, to handle the boat. When the boat was just three nautical miles away from shore, they slit Narayan’s throat and dumped his body in the trawler. They then used their own skill to come to shore.

“After landing at Fish Market at Cuffe Parade near Colaba, they formed four groups and hired taxis to reach to their destinations. A group of two young terrorists entered Hotel Oberoi, four into Hotel Taj Mahal, two stormed into Nariman House while the rest entered the CST railway station from its mail trains’ gate. Their plan was just to cause maximum damage and return with hostages protecting themselves,’’ said Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of police, crime branch.

As the hostage drama began at around 9.30 pm, Kasab along with his accomplice, Ismail Khan, started random firing at CST railway station while the three other teams
had began firing at Oberoi, Taj and Nariman House. Kasab, who sustained a bullet injury in his hand during an encounter with the police near Cama Hospital, was captured near Girgaum Chowpatty while Ismail was gunned down. Police recovered a satphone, a GPS tracker, and Indian currency of Rs 6,200. The satphone contains a dozen international numbers.

Kasab, cops said, had come to Mumbai for the first time. Cops are still probing if the same terrorists had planted bombs in two taxis that exploded at Byculla and Vile Parle.

The terrorists, said police, wanted to launch an attack which would have international ripples. “They were to
return after completing their plan,’’ said Maria. He said they all were trained in the same batch in a terror camp.

“We have recovered 10 AK-56 rifles, 10 9mm pistols, two explosive devices of eight kg each etc. Kasab and Ismail had fired at Leopold before coming to CST. They all are highly-trained terrorists but it would be difficult to say which terror group they belonged to. We have also recovered 10 fake ID cards of some Indian colleges from the terrorists,’’ said Maria.

He said the terrorists had packed huge quantities of dates, almonds and raisins, which they ate during the three-day gun battle.


TERROR TOLL
Total killed 162
Total injured 283
Policemen killed 14
NSG commandos killed 2
Foreigners killed 18
Foreigners injured 22

The Times of India, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

48 HRS ON, NARIMAN HOUSE SECURED



ZEROING IN: NSG commandos prepare to storm the building after being airdropped on Friday morning

Two Terrorists, Five Hostages, An NSG Commando Killed, Dead Hostages Yet To Be Identified, Huge Cache of Arms Recovered

Mateen Hafeez & Sukhada TatkeI TNN
Mumbai: The two-day siege of Nariman House ended at 8 pm on Friday with NSG commandos storming the building and killing two terrorists. Five people, who were held hostage in the Jewish service centre, also died. Confirming the deaths, NSG director general J K Dutt said, “A huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized from the structure.’’ An NSG commando, Gajendra Singh, was among those killed.

A senior police officer said the bodies of the hostages were partly decomposed. A total of 14 people were rescued from the building, said sources.


The rabbi of the ultra-orthodox Chabad Libavitch Movement of Hasidic Jews, Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivka and six others were taken hostage. However, additional CP K Venkatesham said, “We are yet to establish the identities of the hostages killed.’’ The couple’s two-year-old son and his nanny had managed to escape on Thursday.

Incidentally, the only time the firing and bombing ceased inside the structure after Friday noon was between 1 pm and 2 pm. However, firing re
sumed soon after 2 pm and continued incessantly in the building. Though the commandos reached the building’s terrace in a helicopter and took their positions, they seemed unable to enter the fourth floor until 6 pm when the terrorists blew up a large window pane on the third floor. The terrorists were continuously changing their position from floor to floor. All the window panes were covered with curtains, making it difficult for commandos to gauge the action inside.

Around 6.40 pm, locals gathered on the road near the
building and started shouting slogans thinking that the operation was over. However, barely 15 minutes later, the locals and the police realised that the operation was still on. Police had to resort to a volley of stern announcements to quieten the excited revellers.

The entire Colaba market area, where Nariman House is located, had turned into a battle ground. Police jeeps, fire brigade vehicles and ambulances, along with BEST buses were parked in the lanes and bylanes. Sniffer dogs from the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad and the NSG were taken near the building to check if any explosive had been planted around the building.
A pall of gloom hung over Colaba market, which is one of the busiest places in the vicinity. Occupants of the nearby buildings had gathered on the terraces of their buildings to catch a glimpse of the action. Residents of five buildings located near the Nariman House, who were evacuated on Wednesday, also gathered on the road to witness the encounter.

Around 3.15 pm, the commandos waved a piece of red cloth from the fourth floor, signalling their counterparts. Within seconds, the cloth was removed and the gun battle began. It was the time when the terrorists started firing relentlessly from the window.

Ten minutes later, the red cloth was up again and remained there till the terrorists blew up the window pane. In the next hour, around 25 hand grenades went off inside the
building.

Israeli experts said Indian security forces were premature in storming the building. “They should have sanitized the area and first collected intelligence about the terrorists before launching flushing out operations,’’ they added.

HOUSE OF TERROR
1. HOW IT BEGAN: 7.30 pm (Wednesday) Eight terrorists enter Nariman House, 4 Pasta Lane, Colaba, and order huge quantities of food. Some of them fan out and attack Cafe Leopold first and later enter the Taj


2. THE KILLINGS:
10 pm to Thursday morning Terrorists fire indiscriminately at neighbouring buildings and passersby. Many are killed. Police surround the area, NSG called in


3. RESCUE BEGINS:
12 noon to midnight NSG commandos do a recce of the building. Some of them station themselves on neighbouring rooftops. Manage to rescue nine people. Terrorists take up defensive positions, lob grenades intermittently


4. THE OPERATION:
7 am to 7 pm, Friday NSG chopper drops 30 commandos on terrace of the building. Deadly gun battle starts. Fourth floor catches fire. C4 explosive used to blow hole in the wall. Amidst heavy fighting, NSG gains control of the premises

The Times of India, November 29, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

ATS unearths Hindu Rashtra plot

Mumbai: Investigation into the Malegaon blast has revealed that the suspects were looking beyond maiming the textile town. They were actually working to convert India into a “Hindu Rashtra” by 2025.

“Interrogation of Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey, who is in police custody till December 1, has revealed that the group was working to create an ‘Aryavarta Rashtra’ in India,’’ an ATS official said.

“They wanted to make India like what it was when it
was ruled by the Aryans; their dream was to convert the country into a Hindu Rashtra and an Akhand Bharat,’’ an official said.

The suspects planned to infiltrate government departments everywhere in the country with like-minded people and then convert India from a secular country into a Hindu Rashtra, officials said. “They had also planned their life in exile if their conspiracy was foiled and they happened to be ousted by the government. Purohit assured some of the other accused that they would contact other nations for asy
lum if they faced any problem,’’ one of them added.

But why didn’t the interrogation of Lt-Col Purohit reveal this “fact’’? An official said, “We did not imagine that the suspects would have such a
plan. Our main focus was on the Malegaon blast. So, we compiled questions focusing only on the blast for narco analysis. It was only after the examination of Dwivedi’s laptop that we came to know about this.’’

Dwivedi, arrested from Kanpur on November 14 for a suspected role in September’s Malegaon blast, is accused of instructing Lt-Col Purohit to procure the RDX and execute the blast. The ATS has arrested 11 people so far.

Dwivedi is also believed to have told ATS sleuths that he first joined the Indian Air Force in 1989 but opted out in 1990.

Officials managed to seize his two laptops before he could destroy them. “The police found records of over 15 meetings Dwivedi had with the other accused in the blast. Purohit used to videograph these
meetings and, at one of these meetings, Abhinav Bharat convener Sameer Kulkarni is seen discussing funds collected for their cause,’’ an official said.

Special public prosecutor Rohini Salian has told a MCOCA court that Dwivedi is clearly heard asking others to “now listen to my plan’’ about the blast. “We have to do our duty in the interest of the nation and justice,’’ Salian said, referring to the larger conspiracy. Dwivedi is also seen talking about RDX, remote controls, timers, short- and long-range weapons and the conspiracy, Salian has told the court.

The Times of India, November 27, 2008

26/11 terror attack coverage at the Taj


November 27, 2008: Mateen Hafeez covering the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj where four Pakistani terrorists entered and and went on a mayhem...

26/11 coverage at the Taj



November 27, 2008: Mateen Hafeez, covering the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj where four Pakistani terrorists entered and and went on a mayhem. .

26/11 coverage at the Taj


November 27, 2008: Covering the 26/11 terror attack at the Taj where four Pakistani terrorists entered and and went on a mayhem. Mateen Hafeez, Nadeem Asran and Kartikeya Tripathy..

Monday, November 24, 2008

Plea in SC for fresh probe into ’06 Malegaon blast

Mumbai: A petition asking for re-investigation of the serial blasts in Malegaon in September 2006 was filed in Supreme Court last week. According to the petitioners, the current teams of the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) should be directed to again probe the twoyear-old blast case, which had killed 31 people and injured 297.

The petitioners, Jamiat-ul-Ulema (New Delhi) member Maulana Asjad Madni, advocate Anees Saharvardi and Malegaon resident Yaseen Bakrawala, stated in their plea that the nine boys—termed members of the banned SIMI—arrested for the cemetery blast were innocent and they should be released immediately.

“We have mentioned several points in the petition, which need to be looked into. For instance, the approver in the 2006 Malegaon cemetery blast, Abrar Ahmed, stayed in Indore and Deolali to avoid arrest after the Shab-e-Baarat blast,’’ said advocate S S Shaikh, one of the senior lawyers who compiled the peition.

Ahmed, who went missing after the serial blasts in the textile town, had reportedly spoken to his family in Malegaon from Indore and Deolali. He had stayed in Indore for almost 15 days, his family had told TOI then. “The Malegaon 2008 suspects, Sameer Kulkarni, Shamlal Sahu, Shivnarayan Singh and Pragya, have an Indore connection. Moreover, according to the ATS, the confidential meetings they had were all conducted in Deolali and Indore. There is a need to examine whether the latest suspects had any role in the earlier case or not,’’ said Shaikh. The ATS had said the suspects in this year’s Malegaon blast including, Lt Col P S Purohit, had arranged meetings in Indore and Deolali.

The Kul-Jamati Tanzeem, a Muslim organisation formed in Malegaon after the 2006 blasts, has been demanding a fair probe since the arrest of the nine youngsters.

The residents said the role of a police officer, who was posted in Malegaon then, should also be looked into. “Abrar Ahmed had told his relatives before the arrest that the police officer had instructed him to go to Indore and hide there,’’ said Shaikh.


The Times of India, November 24, 2008

Accused had planned sleeper cells in B’desh

Cops Identify Youths Trained Five Years Ago

Mateen Hafeez
Mumbai: Investigations of the Malegaon September 29 bomb blast have revealed that the arrested accused wanted to send sleeper cells to Bangladesh to avenge the “atrocities’’ on Hindus. The police have, so far, identified more than a dozen youths from a batch of 54 operatives who were trained in terrorist activities five years ago. The trainees at the camp were reportedly told that Hindus were not being given their rights in Bangladesh.

This revelation came during the interrogation of Sameer Kulkarni, a co-founder of Abhinav Bharat and one of the accused in the explosion that killed six persons. Kulkarni told the police that the organisation spread rapidly and had around 5,000 members across the country. Moreover, it has a few dozen members in Bangladesh. According to antiterrorism squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, arrested Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit had floated the organisation in February 2006. Kulkarni, who worked in a printing press in Bhopal, had been publishing literature to “educate” Hindu youths on religion. A key suspect, he is accused of receiving money through hawala and attending meetings where conspiracies were hatched for the explosion.

“As many as 54 youths were trained in assembling bombs in Sinhgad in 2003 and one of the arrested accused, Rakesh Dhawade, had organised this camp,’’ public prosecutor Ajay Misar told a Nashik court last week. The police said, “It’s difficult to identify all those trained by the Dhawade group five years ago who later joined Abhinav Bharat.’’

“Abhinav Bharat’s operatives were trained to avenge the attacks on Hindus and were lying low. They were asked to act when ordered and were brainwashed about the alleged atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh. The operatives were also trying to set up a branch there,’’ said a source.

Some of the Bangladeshi members of Abhinav Bharat fled from India soon after learning about Kulkarni’s arrest. They would enter India from Kolkata, said a source.

The police have found that some people from Bangladesh—Hindus are a minority there—had also come to India to attend Abhinav Bharat’s secret meetings. An ATS team probing the financial angle in the Malegaon blast found that there were money transaction from outside the country as well.

Those trained by the Dhawade group were also responsible for the blasts at different mosques in Jalna, Purna and-Parbhani, a source said.

November 24, 2008, The Times of India

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pandey used to film all ashram visitors: Probe

Mateen Hafeez/TNN

Mumbai: Investigation has revealed that self-proclaimed seer Dayanand Pandey used to surreptitiously film all those who visited his ashrams.

The visitors, said sources, included policemen, top intelligence officials, businessmen, bureaucrats and so on. They were filmed speaking to Pandey.

Police sources said Pandey, arrested on November 14 from Kanpur for his alleged role in the Malegaon bomb blast, had “high level’’ contacts with some politicians. “We have seized his laptop and a pen drive. The laptop was sent for cyber analysis to the forensic science laboratory in Bangalore on Thursday. During examination, we found that Pandey had been videographing all his visitors with a camera and the visits were stored in his laptop. Pandey’s conversations with his visitors were also stored there,’’ said an officer. The videography was carried out in Kanpur and Jammu & Kashmir.

After his arrest, public prosecutor Ajay Misar told the court that Pandey had directed Lt-Col Purohit to arrange the explosives used in the Malegaon blast. Pandey had also fixed a meeting between Purohit and Ramji, a wanted accused in the case, in August.

“Pandey was in the habit of filming his visitors. Perhaps, it was done just to keep a record of all the people he met in his ashram. However, we do not want to take a chance. We are waiting for the forensic report for further investigation.’’ said an officer.

“The laptop has been in Pandey’s custody since 2005 and the hard disc is full of films pertaining to his meetings with disciples and visitors. Some other folders in the
laptop may throw light on the hundreds of people who met him. The laptop also has photographs of Pandey with several religious leaders, politicians and bureaucrats. We are verifying the purpose of these meetings,’’ said a source.

Pandey is believed to have told ATS sleuths that he had joined the air force wing of the NDA in 1989 but dropped out in 1990. The police claimed to have recovered a boarding pass of an airline, a chequebook,a passbook,an ATM card, a debit card, a passport and a pen drive from Pandey.

The police have got the records of Pandey’s bank account and an officer who has earlier worked with the economic offences wing has been entrusted with the job of verifying the financial transactions.

The laptop contains the history of Pandey’s ashrams,
his lectures, meetings with high-profile people and so on. A list of donations given to his ashram and other social activities is also being verified.

The police said Pandey was also in constant touch with sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who is now in judicial custody. They added that Ajay Rahirkar, treasurer of Abhinav Bharat, had given a huge sum of money to Pandey.

The Times of India, November 22, 2008

Dhawade held in 4-yr-old case

Arms Expert Arrested For Third Time In 10 Days

Mumbai: The Parbhani police on Thursday arrested antique dealer Rakesh Dhawade in connection with a fouryear-old case in which a bomb was hurled inside a mosque at Purna taluka in Parbhani district. This is the third time that he has been arrested over the past 10 days.

Dhawade, who was arrested on November 2 for his alleged role in the Malegaon September 29 blast, is currently in Purna police’s custody. On November 13, he was chargesheeted for his alleged role in the Parbhani’s Mohammedia mosque blast that took place on November 21, 2003. Again on November 15, he was chargesheeted for being involved in the explosion at the Qadriya mosque in Jalna—he had reportedly trained Bajrang Dal youths who hurled the bomb at the mosque in August 2004.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Thursday invoked the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the suspects in the Malegaon bomb blast. The Parbhani and Jalna bomb blast cases were made basis for the MCOCA.

“We have arrested Dhawade in our case and got his police custody till November 25. We are still probing the matter to establish his exact role in the four-year-old blast case,’’ said S P Yadav, inspector-general (Nanded range).

The arrested accused in the Purna’s Meraj-ul-Uloom mosque blast case (August 27, 2004) had told the ATS two years ago about a man who organised a terror training session and provided them with firearms. However, the ATS then did not take much effort to nab that suspect. Dhawade’s name cropped up in the Meraj-ul-Uloom case while he was being questioned by a team led by ATS chief Hemant Karkare in connection with the Malegaon September 29 blast.

Dhawade has been accused of collecting funds for the terror module, Abhinav Bharat, allegedly responsible for the Malegaon blast. During interrogation, Dhawade admitted that he had organised a terror training camp for Bajrang Dal members in Sinhgad in 2003 when as many as 54 youths were taught howe to make bombs and operate firearms. Even the trainees were booked for the Parbhani, Jalna and Purna blasts. They are also accused in a case in which a bomb went off while it was being manufactured in Nanded on April 6, 2006. The police had seized 1.5 kg highintensity gunpowder, an improved explosive device, remote controls, electronic tools, timers, switches, bombmaking materials, false beards, moustaches and a notebook containing bombmaking instructions.


THEY THREATENED TO KILL ME: PUROHIT
Pune: Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Prasad Purohit on Friday lodged a complaint against Mumbai ATS officials for allegedly torturing him in custody.

Purohit was in Mumbai ATS custody for 17 days before being taken to Pune for a forged documents case, following a complaint lodged against him by businessman Milind Date.

On Friday, Purohit filed a three-page written complaint before judicial magistrate (first class) G G Itkalkar when he was produced before him by the Pune ATS following the expiry of his two-day police custody. Before that, when the application seeking extension of Purohit’s police custody came up for hearing, the magistrate asked him if he had any complaint against the ATS. Purohit replied in the negative but said he wanted to submit something in writing. His lawyer Shrikant Shivade said his client had complained of physical and mental torture by the Mumbai ATS. He alleged that Purohit had been hanged upside down during the interrogation and severely tortured and repeatedly asked to make a confessional statement. Shivade said Purohit had written in his application that he had been falsely implicated in the Malegaon blast case because he had taken action against several terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Purohit has also allegedly complained that during probe at the ATS office, the CBI and the Haryana police threatened to kill him in an encounter. He has also allegedly complained against an IB officer for threatening him with dire consequences.

The Times of India, November 22, 2008

Hyderabad cops share info with Maharashtra ATS

Mumbai: A Hyderabad police team, probing last year’s Mecca mosque blast case, met the state ATS personnel and exchanged information on the suspects arrested in connection with the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast.

According to ATS officials in Mumbai, this meeting was part of a routine excercise. Personnels of the Hyderabad police’s Organisation of Counter Terrorist Operations (OCTOPUS) and the Special Investigation Cell also exchanged information on the source of RDX and the conspiracy hatched by the members of a radical organisation, Abhinav Bharat.

The ATS in Maharashtra have so far arrested 10 persons in the Malegaon blast case. The accused include Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and self-proclaimed seer Dayanand Pandey. These suspects were earlier questioned by the Gujarat’s Modasa police and Haryana police for their alleged connection with the Samjhauta Express train blast.

The Hyderabad police could not interrogate the accused as most of them are in the judicial custody and court’s permission is required to interrogate them.

Two weeks ago, a sessions court in Hyderabad had acquitted Shoeb Jagirdar, Abdul Majeed, Imran Khan and Mohammed Kaleem—the four suspects in the Mecca mosque blast case. Three bombs had exploded on May 18, 2007 at Mecca mosque killing 14 people and injuring over 50 others. The police had arrested the four accused, and claimed to have cracked the case.


NARCO ON PANDEY:

Dayanand Pandey, an accused in Malegaon blast case, underwent narco analysis at the forensic science lab in Bangalore on Friday. He was subjected to the test for about four hours. Forensic officials are, however, yet to decide if Pandey would be subjected to other tests like polygraph and brain mapping.

The Times of India, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

MCOCA slapped on 10 Malegaon suspects

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Thursday invoked the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the suspects in the September 29 Malegaon blast. The case, being heard by a Nashik chief judicial magistrate, will be shifted to a special MCOCA court in Mumbai.

MCOCA has also been applied to the suspects in the 7/11 serial train blasts case, the 2006 Malegaon cemetery blasts case and to the Indian Mujahideen module said to be behind the Ahmedabad serial blasts.

The 10 persons arrested in the latest Malegaon case, and those likely to be arrested in the same case, will now find it difficult to get bail before six months. Moreover, under this Act, a statement given before an officer of the rank of a deputy commissioner will be treated as evidence. The Act also gives the ATS an additional three months to file the chargesheet. TOI was the first to indicate that MCOCA would be invoked against the 10 suspects.


‘Malegaon accused face war against nation charge’

Mumbai:
The ATS, which has invoked the MCOCA against ten the accused in the Malegaon blast, had earlier asked its Parbhani and Jalna units to file chargesheets against Punebased weapon collector Rakesh Dhawade in the blast cases registered with them.

The Parbhani police had filed a chargesheet against Dhawade in connection with a five-year-old blast case outside a mosque while the Jalna police filed a chargesheet gainst him in connection with a similar case in 2004. Intrestingly, both the chargesheets were filed in less than 24 hours of each other.

The ATS invoked sections 3(1), (2) and (4) of the MCOCA for the suspects’ association with an organised crime syndicate. The minimum punishment under these sections is five years and it could extend up to life imprisonment. To invoke MCOCA, there should have been at least two chargesheets filed against any of the accused to establish that it was part of an organised crime syndicate. The accused were earlier booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Explosives Act and the UAPA.

Asked whether the Malegaon blast accused can be charged with waging war against the nation, a senior lawyer said: “The section covers any act meant to destabilise the country, even instigating a riot. The involvement of a foreign hand is not needed,’’ said a senior lawyer.

Meanwhile, ATS chief Hemant Karkare said on Thursday: “Since it is a sensitive case, we are doing our investigation professionally. We collected enough evidence against the accused and hence booked them under the MCOCA.’’ Six people were killed and 101 others were injured when a bomb planted on a bike exploded in central Malegaon on September 29 this year. Karkare added that the accused will be booked for ‘waging war against the nation’ at an appropriate time.

In the past, those arrested for blasts were booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota). The Maharashtra police started using the amended Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the MCOCA in terror-related cases after the Centre repealed Pota in 2005.

The ATS has so far arrested 10 persons, including sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a former member of the Durga Vahini that is a sister wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, serving lieutenant colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Kanpur-based Mahant Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey etc. The ATS also plans to arrest one Sudhakar Chaturvedi, who is currently in jail for using a fake ID in the cantonment area in Deolali, Nashik.

The conspiracy of the Malegaon blast was hatched by members of a Hindu fundamentalist group Abhinav Bharat. Purohit was one of the persons who started the group in February 2006, just seven months before the Malegaon blast that had killed 31. Purohit, who has been termed as the mastermind of the blast, has also been accused of procuring the RDX. The Lt Col is said to have pilfered 60 kg of RDX from a military cantonment. “We had got this information from a witness and the verification is still on,’’ said Karkare.

“The accused’s movements have been in a couple of states and we are in the process of verifying everything. We have got sufficient evidence against them and are satisfied with our investigation,’’ added Karkare.

Asked if he was under any political pressure since a party has alleged that the ATS is biased and the probe be handed over to the CBI, Karkare said: “We are not answerable to any agency. We will submit our report to the court and are doing the investigation professionally.’’ Moreover, the CBI is planning to book Dhawade for the Nanded blast in which two Bajrang Dal members died when making a bomb on April 6, 2006.


PM, LK discuss sadhvi:

New Delhi: BJP leader L K Advani forcefully took up Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s case when PM Manmohan Singh called him to offer details of the probe that led to her arrest in the Malegaon blast case. Singh called up on Tuesday, soon after Advani slammed the “barbaric treatment’’ of the sadhvi by the Maharashtra ATS.


SAINIK MOVES HC AGAINST ATS FOR ABUSE OF SADHVI:

AShiv Sena member has filed a public interest litigation before the Bombay high court seeking action against the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) for the alleged ill-treatment of sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. He has demanded a judicial inquiry into the ATS’ role and a transfer of the probe into the Malegaon blasts to the state CID.

Shilpa Deshmukh, secretary of the Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Sena, has alleged that ATS is the “most untrustworthy’’ unit in the state police department for having made false and baseless allegations against the sadhvi and Lt Col Prasad Purohit who is a suspect in the blast case. Deshmukh, whose lawyer is V P Patil, said her conclusions are based on media coverage of the blast probe. She also claims that she’s in possession of an affidavit filed by the sadhvi before the Nashik court in which she has accused the ATS of custodial torture. The petition contends that the narco-analysis conducted on the stamp scam accused A K L Telgi had revealed the names of many political leaders. TNN
The Times of India, November 21, 2008