New Delhi: In the weeks after 26/11, as India tried to piece Mumbai back together, and connect the dots of ten terrorists who ravaged the city, taped conversations revealed how meticulously the cold-blooded terror attack was orchestrated.
There were ten men who sailed into Mumbai from Karachi on 26/11. Operating in pairs, they moved to different landmarks. In 72 hours, 166 people were killed.
The terrorists took many of their cues from six handlers who were on the phone to them from Pakistan. One of them was of special interest to Indian intelligence officials. Not just because he told the duo at Nariman House to let their victims know that "Yeh to sirf trailer hai, asal film baaki hai (this is just the trailer, the film has yet to start rolling)." But because he used a smattering of Hindi words, rather than Urdu, in his lengthy tutorials. He talked of "Prashasan" (administration), "Udharan" (example) and "yuvak" (youth). Indian intelligence officials believed this was a "local hand."
Today, they confirmed that he has been arrested. Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Hamza alias Abu Jundal was arrested on June 21, the government confirmed. The Delhi police officially maintains that he was picked up from the Indira Gandhi International Airport - without explaining why he would risk travelling to India, or how he boarded a plane given that there's an Interpol red corner notice (the equivalent of an international arrest warrant) for him. He belongs to the Beed district of Maharashtra, and is also wanted for the attacks on local trains in Mumbai in 2006 in which 180 people were killed.
Home Minister P Chidambaram did not confirm or deny whether reports that he was deported from Saudi Arabia are correct. "The person who goes by the pseudonym of Abu Jindal has been apprehended and remanded to the custody of our law enforcement agencies," he said. Police sources said Ansari has been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Explosives Act and the Passport Act.
He is, for India, a big breakthrough in the Mumbai 26/11 investigations. Abu Hamza, who had 10 aliases, is named in both the case chargesheet and the dossier that India has handed to Pakistan. This is the first time that investigating agencies have in their custody a man who was on the inside of the 26/11 plot.
Sources in the Delhi Police say that they were given vital information on Abu Hamza by another terrorist arrested last year in connection with the blast at Delhi's Jama Masjid in 2010. The police was told that the 26/11 handler had stayed in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and was recruiting and raising funds for the Lashkar-e-Taiba in countries including Saudi Arabia.
Abu Hamza's voice samples will now be matched against the recordings. Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested after the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, has mentioned Abu Hamza's role in court. He said that while he was training in Pakistan, it was the handler who taught Hindi to him and the others who executed the 26/11 attacks.
Ansari, who has trained at the Indian Technical Institute at Beed, is believed to have become a jihadi after the Gujarat riots. Among the many terror plots that security agencies believe he played a role in, was also an alleged plot to assassinate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He is alleged to have first joined the banned group SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), then the Indian Mujahideen and later, the Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba. Intelligence sources believe he has been a vital link between the Indian Mujahideen and the Lashkar.
Pakistan had said earlier that Abu Hamza had been arrested. It will now have to elaborate on how this man was then allegedly travelling to Saudi Arabia and other countries in recent months.