Counter-Terrorism: Mumbai Mastermind Arrested

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June 29, 2012: On June 21st Indian police made a major breakthrough with the arrest of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s key man Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari (alias Abu Hamza alias Abu Jundal). Ansair was the main handler of ten Pakistani terrorists who wreaked mayhem in Mumbai from November 26 to 29, 2008. Ansari was one of the terrorist leaders, based in Pakistan, who used cell phones to keep in constant touch with the Mumbai terrorists during those four days.

Ansari's eventual arrest was preceded by months of top secret diplomatic negotiations between India and Saudi Arabia. The United States was also believed to be involved. The Indian IB (Intelligence Bureau) played the most crucial role locating Ansari. IB worked closely with Saudi intelligence. Ansari’s undoing proved to be his overheard telephone conversations. IB arrested Ansari after his deportation from Saudi Arabia. After questioning Ansari for several days, IB handed him over to the Delhi Police which announced the arrest.

Indian security agencies had been seeking Ansari since late 2011, after it was discovered that he was a key player in the Mumbai attack and also acted as the Hindi teacher of the ten Pakistani terrorists. Ansari's arrest is being acclaimed as the most significant victory of Indian security forces since the arrest of Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor among Mumbai attackers.

The case against Ansari is that he trained the ten terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attack and helped control the actions of the Mumbai terrorists from a control room in Karachi, Pakistan. His key role has been confirmed by Kasab during his interrogation. While the Mumbai attacks were on, Abu had told the LeT terrorists to convey to the media that the "attack was a trailer and the entire movie was yet to come."

Abu was the former chief bodyguard of Osama bin Laden. IB ensured that a DNA test was conducted on Ansari, having picked up a DNA sample from his family in Maharashtra, India and sent it to Saudi Arabia. There police confirmed that Ansari was Ansari.

Indian security agencies are keen to pit Abu against Ajmal Kasab and conduct their interrogation together. The joint interrogation of Abu and Kasab would help to establish whether the person named as Abu Jundal by Kasab and whether the person named as Abu Hamza by the Pakistani Interior Minister are one and the same and whether Abu Jundal and Abu Hamza are the assumed names (‘kuniyats’) of Ansari.

If all the three are established to be one and the same – which is most likely – it will trigger the million-dollar question: how this man, arrested by Pakistani authorities on February 12, 2009, managed to go to Saudi Arabia? This once again puts Pakistan in a poor light as that would imply that either Pakistani police helped him escape, by turning a blind eye, or they were totally inept. It would have more sinister implications for Indian national security as it implies that the Pakistani military establishment is perhaps planning for using the LeT for yet another major terror operation against India. – Rajeev Sharma

 

 


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