Mumbai: A special court has held Ajmal Kasab - the lone surviving terrorist from the 26/11 Mumbai attacks - guilty of murder, conspiracy and of waging war against the nation. The verdict comes 17 months after Kasab and nine other terrorists from Pakistan unleashed 62 hours of death and destruction on the country's financial capital on November 26, 2008. The quantum of sentence will be announced later.
Kasab, a native of Faridkot, Punjab, was charged with killing 166 people, including 23 foreigners, and injuring 304 others along with his compatriots and at the instance of the LeT. The maximum fatalities were at the CST station. Eighteen security personnel, including then Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare and other top cops, were killed in the 62-hour battle.
Ten terrorists, trained and armed by the LeT in Pakistan, had sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008, on a 'fidayeen' (suicide) mission, and wreaked havoc during a 60-hour siege, killing and wounding people at will. Only Kasab was captured alive, the other nine were killed in counter-attacks.
The 26/11 trial, perhaps the fastest in a terror case in India, had commenced on May 8, 2009, in a special court set up at Arthur Road Jail. During the trial, 3,192 pages of evidence were recorded. There were 658 witnesses and 296 of them were examined in court on 271 working days. Another 357 witnesses were examined via affidavit. There were five court's witnesses. The trial lasted 369 days.
Thirty witnesses in the court of judge M L Tahaliyani identified Kasab as the man who had opened fire at them.
The prosecution, led by Ujjwal Nikam, submitted 1,015 articles seized during investigations and filed 1,691 documents to support its case. The prosecution had also argued that Pakistan's security apparatus was used by LeT in the attacks.
For the first time in Indian legal history, FBI officials deposed to give technical evidence that the killers came from Pakistan using a Global Positioning System and that they made calls from their mobile phones through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to stay in touch with their handlers across the border.
Prosecution also tabled CCTV footage of the terrorists moving about with guns and firing at people. The images were captured on CCTV cameras fitted at CST railway station, the Times of India building, and the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.
Photographs of Kasab shot by photojournalists Sebastian D'Souza and Sriram Vernekar were also placed before the court. However, Kasab took the plea that these were morphed and that he was not the one shown in the stills.
Kasab is being held at a specially-made bullet and bomb-proof cell in the high-security Arthur Road central prison. He was brought every day to the court in the jail premises escorted by 10 to 12 guards. Since the trial began, 200 troops of Indo-Tibetan Border Police guarded him round-the-clock.
Kasab was captured alive on the first day of the attacks, and he confessed to his crime before a Magistrate in February last year spilling the beans about the conspiracy hatched in Pakistan and how they struck terror at various places in Mumbai, only to retract it as soon as the trial commenced.
Midway through the trial, Kasab took a U-turn, admitting partly his earlier confession, but diluting his role in the attacks and passing almost the entire blame on his accomplice Abu Ismael. Finally, at the end of the trial, he disowned all earlier versions and claimed innocence.
Seeking to obstruct the trial in the initial stages, Kasab claimed he was juvenile but the court rejected his plea after scientific evidence proved otherwise. The 11,000-page chargesheet filed on February 25, 2008 put his age at 21. By the end of the trial it was a 12,850-page chargesheet.
Kasab was represented by three lawyers. The first, Anjali Waghmare was removed on technical grounds even before the trial began as the court learnt that she had also appeared for a witness in the same case. Abbas Kazmi, who replaced her, was removed mid-way for not cooperating with the court.
K P Pawar, who then defended Kasab, continued till the end and pleaded that his client was innocent and was picked up by the police from Chowpatty a few days before the 26/11 attacks.
THE PROSECUTION'S CASE
According to prosecution, Kasab and his accomplices were given commando and intelligence training at a camp in Muridke in Pakistan by LeT chief Hafeez Sayeed and chief of operations Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
The chargesheet alleged that the attackers sailed from Karachi in the "Al-Hussaini" a boat which they abandoned near Porbunder, where they hijacked an Indian fishing trawler 'Kuber' to reach Mumbai.
On board Kuber, they murdered navigator Amarsingh Solanki and four sailors. Solanki's body was found in his cabin while those of others were dumped into the sea.
The prosecution produced DNA reports of Kasab to show that they matched with the articles found on the Kuber.
After abandoning the Kuber near the Mumbai Coast, the attackers reached the shores in a dinghy (rubber boat) carried by them from Pakistan. They disembarked at Badhwar Park and fanned out in different directions in five batches of two each to shoot and kill, the prosecution said.
It placed evidence to show that the Honda engine fitted on the dingy was of Japanese make and exported to Pakistan.
The 10 terrorists opened fire at Hotel Trident-Oberoi, Hotel Taj Mahal, Nariman House (a Jewish outreach centre), Chhatrapti Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital and Metro Cinema Junction. They also planted bombs in two taxis which exploded killing people.
Hundreds were held hostage at Hotel Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House where terrorists fought National Security Guards (NSG) and police for close to 60 hours before being killed.
The nine slain terrorists were identified as Abu Ismael, Abu Akasha, Abu Umar, Abdul Rehman Bada, Abu Umer, Abdul Rehman Chhota, Fahad Ullah, Javed Abu Ali and Abu Shoeb.
Kasab was captured at Girgaum Chowpatty following an encounter with the police after he and Abu Ismael had killed several people at CST, in and outside Cama Hospital, and Metro Junction.
The terrorist duo's victims included Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, IPS officer Ashok Kamate and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.
During the trial, the court issued non-bailable warrants against 27 absconding accused, including the LeT's Lakhvi and Hafeez Saeed. They have not been arrested although the warrants have been served to the Interpol.
Fake identity cards were recovered from all the terrorists who had concealed their Pakistani identity by posing as Indian students.
Besides this, articles of daily use with "Made in Pakistan" markings were found on the Kuber. (With PTI inputs)