Mon, Dec 08, 2008 - Page 5 News List

India gunman rose from crook to militant: cops

TENSIONSInvestigators say the attacker was raised on the streets of a Pakistani town, but residents told reporters that they had no memory of him or his father

AP , MUMBAI, INDIA

National Akali Dal activists burn a Pakistani national flag as they shout anti-Pakistan slogans during a protest in New Delhi, India, yesterday. India’s foreign minister said that Pakistani reports about a hoax call made in his name during the Mumbai siege were an attempt to divert blame for the attacks.

PHOTO: AFP

The lone gunman to survive the Mumbai terror attacks was a petty street thug from a dusty Pakistani outpost who was systematically programmed into a highly trained suicide guerrilla over 18 months in jihadist camps, India’s top investigator into the attacks said.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, was one of the 10 men who came ashore on a small rubber raft on Nov. 26, divided into five pairs and attacked some of Mumbai’s best known and most beloved landmarks.

Kasab and his partner rampaged through the city’s main train terminal, then shot up a police station and a hospital, carjacked a police van — killing the city’s counterterrorism chief and four other police inside — and stole a second car.

They finally were brought to a halt in a shootout that killed Kasab’s partner and left Kasab with bullet wounds in both hands and a minor wound in his neck, said Rakesh Maria, the chief police investigator on the case.

Photographs of Kasab walking calmly through the train station with his assault rifle made him a symbol of the attacks.

In the days since Kasab’s capture, police have repeatedly interrogated him about his background, his training and the details of the attack. Maria declined to divulge the interrogation methods, saying only that Kasab was “fairly forthcoming.”

Kasab said he was one of five children of Mohammed Amir Kasab, a poor street food vendor in the Pakistani town of Farid Kot, Maria said.

But residents of the impoverished town of 7,000 people, 140km south of the Pakistani city of Lahore, said they had never heard of Kasab or his father.

Mayor Ghulam Mustafa said police and investigators from Pakistan’s spy agencies had also investigated the gunman’s link to the town and found nothing.

Maria said as a teenager, Kasab became a low-level thief, robbing people at knifepoint.

But he dreamed of starting his own gang, and began poking around Lahore, trying to buy guns. He was put in touch with a man who offered to send him for weapons training, and he readily agreed, Maria said.

Kasab soon found himself in a camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, Maria said. Lashkar, a banned Pakistani militant group, has alleged ties to Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies.

Though he had always been a religious Muslim, Kasab had never ascribed to the violent ideology of some extremist groups, Maria said.

That quickly changed in the camp.

“The moment he came under their wings, the indoctrination started. And that’s when he decided there should be some meaning to his life and jihad [holy war] was his calling,” he said.

For 18 months, Kasab was put through a multiphase training program at different camps in Pakistan. It started with physical fitness and jihadi indoctrination, proceeded to small arms lessons, moved on to explosives training and eventually to classes in handling assault rifles, Maria said. He was also trained in how to navigate a boat.

The training was done in the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, and the mountain town of Mansehra, in Pakistan’s deeply conservative North-West Frontier Province, which was a center of training for Kashmiri militants before Pakistan began its peace process with India. Some was also done in Murdike, the base of the Islamist charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which has been accused by the US of being the front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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