A Lashkar-e-Taiba leader in Pakistani custody admitted to his role in last month’s terror assault in the Indian city of Mumbai, Pakistani sources told The Wall Street Journal. The confession comes as the US and UK provided recordings of another senior Lashkar leader speaking to one of the Mumbai terrorists during the operation.
The November terror assault in Mumbai was carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba. The attack was plotted in Pakistan and lasted for more than 60 hours and resulted in more than 170 people killed.
Zarar Shah, “is singing,” a Pakistani official involved with the interrogation told the newspaper. Shah is the Lashkar-e-Taiba communications expert who set up the network that allowed the Mumbai terrorists to speak with Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders in Pakistan during the attack. He also serves as a key liaison between the terror group and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency. Pakistani police detained Shah earlier this month during raids on Lashkar’s offices and train camps.
Shah admitted to being a key planner in the Mumbai assault and “spoke with the attackers during the rampage to give them advice and keep them focused.” He also confirmed that the 10 Mumbai terrorists “spent at least a few weeks in Karachi, a crowded Arabian Sea port, training in urban combat to hone skills they would use in their assault.”
Shah’s admission matches Indian evidence on Lashkar’s role in the Mumbai assault that was provided to Pakistan. India turned over intercepted communications between Shah and the Mumbai terrorists as well as information from the interrogations of several Lashkar terrorists in custody.
Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only Mumbai terrorist captured by Indian police, admitted his 10-man team trained in Lashkar camps in Pakistan with the support of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency and launched their attack from the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Sabauddin Ahmed and Fahim Ansari, two other Lashkar operatives detained earlier this month, also confirmed elements of Shah and Kasab’s account.
Meanwhile, the United States is pressuring Pakistan to turn over Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the military commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Dawn reported. The US has provided Pakistan with communications intercepts between Lakhvi and the Mumbai terrorists. Lakhvi was also detained by Pakistani police during the sweeps against Lashkar offices and camps.
Immediately after the Mumbai attack, Indian police recovered a satellite phone with a number that was directly traced to Lakhvi in Muzaffarabad. Indian intelligence also intercepted conversations between Yusuf Muzammil, a senior Lashkar operative and the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan rejects Indian, US, and UK evidence
Pakistan has rejected the evidence of Lashkar’s complicity in Mumbai that was turned over by India, the US, and the UK. Pakistani officials said the information is “inadmissible in court,” Dawn reported. “They said that since the confessions had been obtained under severe pressure by the Indians, this could not be admissible in judicial process. They have insisted that the information provided would not stand scrutiny in any court.”
But Pakistan has been duplicitous in the investigation of Kasab’s nationality, refusing to admit he is even a Pakistani despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Pakistan’s position on Kasab, which US intelligence views as “incontrovertible,” has frustrated US officials.
Ajmal Amir Kasab, outside the train station in Mumbai during the November terror attack.
Since the Mumbai attack, Pakistan’s president, prime minister, and national security advisor have said evidence on Kasab’s nationality was insufficient. “Have you seen any evidence to that effect,” President Asif Ali Zardari said when asked if Kasab was a Pakistan during a BBC interview in mid-December. “I have definitely not seen any real evidence to that effect.”
Yesterday, National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani refused to admit Kasab was a Pakistani citizen. “Could be,” Durrani said when asked if Kasab was a Pakistani citizen. “I am not saying more than that because we don’t have, I hate to say this we don’t have proof.”
But Pakistan has been given proof of Kasab’s nationality. Kasab himself admitted he is from Pakistan and submitted a request for consular access. The request is “under review” by Pakistan’s foreign office.
Kasab’s father and neighbors were interviewed by Pakistani television and news outlets and confirmed he was indeed from Pakistan. His own father identified him and provided a nearly identical account of his son’s background as Kasab gave to Indian intelligence. “This is the truth,” Kasab’s father told a Pakistani news outlet. “I have seen the picture in the newspaper. This is my son Ajmal.”
Pakistan’s response was to attempt to bury the information. Security forces cordoned the village, removed Kasab’s family from their home and moved someone else in, and forced the townspeople to retract their statements.
“This is absurd, Pakistan can’t even admit one of their citizens was behind the attack,” a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “Pakistan can defuse tensions with India by admitting to some basic facts, but instead they are playing legal games. They know damned well Kasab is a Pakistan, and they also know Mumbai was a LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) operation. Pakistan is rubbing the Mumbai attack in the face of India.”