Pakistan’s Taliban movement yesterday threatened to attack Indian targets to avenge the country’s execution of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the militant squad responsible for a rampage through Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008.
Kasab was hanged on Wednesday amid great secrecy, underscoring the political sensitivity of the Nov. 26, 2008, massacre, which still casts a pall over relations between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India.
“We have decided to target Indians to avenge the killing of Ajmal Kasab,” Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Ehsan demanded that India return Kasab’s body.
“If they don’t return his body to us or his family, we will capture Indians and will not return their bodies,” he said, adding that the Taliban would try to strike Indian targets “anywhere.”
The Taliban are seen as one of the biggest security threats in Pakistan and are blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country. They have not carried out major attacks abroad.
Kasab was charged with 86 offenses, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, in a charge-sheet running to more than 11,000 pages. It was the first time a capital sentence had been carried out in India since 2004. There was celebration on the streets of Mumbai and other cities as news of the execution spread, but militant groups in Pakistan reacted angrily, as did residents of his home village of Faridkot.
Indian newspapers yesterday also welcomed Kasab’s execution, but also called for the Pakistani masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks to be brought to justice.
“A puppet’s life ends on a string,” the Times of India headline read.
“Kasab hanged, India rejoices,” the Pioneer said.
New Delhi blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group for the 2008 attacks. It has also accused elements of the Pakistani state — notably the ISI intelligence agency — of involvement.
The Hindustan Times said in an editorial that the government “did well to execute him swiftly and with secrecy”.
However, it added: “Kasab was only a pawn in the greater game of proxy terror that Pakistan has been playing. The shadowy handlers who controlled the whole grisly operation from Pakistan are still around.”
The government in Islamabad was tight-lipped after Kasab’s death, though spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan was quoted as denying Pakistan had rebuffed a letter from India notifying it about the execution.
Pakistan charged seven men in 2009 over the Mumbai attacks, but insists it needs to gather more evidence in India before proceeding further. Its failure to convict anyone over the Mumbai carnage continues to bedevil efforts for a lasting peace agreement between the two countries.