Ajmal Kasab hanged at Pune's Yerwada Jail this morning

Mumbai:  Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, was hanged at Pune's Yerwada Jail at 7:30 this morning, in a swift and secret execution.  

An hour later, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil announced the hanging and said "166 people were killed in the terrorist attack...I sincerely believe this is a tribute to all innocent people and the officers who lost their lives." Doctors in Pune confirmed that the terrorist was dead.

It took the Maharashtra government less than two weeks to hang Kasab after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition on November 5. Two days later, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde signed on the file. It was sent to the Maharashtra government on November 8 and November 21, today, was fixed as the date of execution, Mr Shinde said, adding, "we need to keep such things secret, but I had told the nation we would take action." He said the Indian high commission in Islamabad had informed Pakistan about the hanging yesterday. Kasab's family was also informed. The minister said Pakistan hadn't laid claim to the terrorist's body yet.

So secret was the operation that even top police officers in Mumbai did not know of it, sources said. The Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist was shifted from Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail to Pune's Yerwada Jail this Monday.  Yerwada Jail is one of the two jails in Maharashtra where prisoners on death row are hanged.

166 people were killed over three days of terror, when 10 men from Pakistan sailed into Mumbai in November 2008. They split into pairs and spent 72 hours targeting the city's landmarks. A hospital and two big hotels were attacked; a main railway station was, so was a Jewish centre. Kasab was the only terrorist who was caught alive.

The abiding image is of him captured on a CCTV camera at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station, strapped with ammunition and holding a deadly Kalashnikov rifle. He was intercepted at Girgaum Chowpatty by assistant police inspector Tukaram Ombale, who was killed while grappling with him.

The execution comes one day before the Winter Session of Parliament begins and five days before the fourth anniversary of 26/11, the day that will haunt Mumbai, perhaps forever. Kasab's hanging is expected to provide some closure. The BJP's Muqtar Abbas Naqvi said it was "better late than never."    

Since his arrest in 2008, Kasab was kept in a high-security bulletproof cell in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail. He had moved the Supreme Court on February 14 this year against the High Court verdict of October 10 last year, which upheld a lower court order sentencing the terrorist to death. The lower court had pronounced its judgement on May 6, 2010, 18 months after he was captured.

Kasab's mercy petition was filed first with the Maharashtra Home Ministry, which rejected it in September, and forwarded it to the Union Home Ministry. Then, In October, the Home Ministry recommended that President Pranab Mukherjee reject his plea.

In his plea before the Supreme Court Kasab had said that he had not been given a fair trial. But the Supreme Court had rejected that contention and Justice CK Prasad had observed, "I am more than certain that the planning and conspiracy to commit the crime were hatched in Pakistan, the perpetrators of crime were Pakistani trained at different centres in that country, and the devastation which took place at various places in the city of Mumbai, were executed by the appellant in furtherance thereof."

There had been an overwhelming demand among people in India since 2008 that Kasab be executed for his role in the Mumbai attacks.

Also, as Kasab's trial continued, the cost of keeping him alive had been a huge burden on the state exchequer. While the Government has spent over Rs. 5 crores on his high security cell at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail, his security, entrusted to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), has cost the state over Rs. 19 crores.

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