Key Mumbai plotter arrested in Saudi Arabia


Abu Jundal. Image from The Hindu.

A key suspect in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, was arrested in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and then turned over to Indian authorities.

Also known as Abu Jundal and Abu Hamza, Ansari has reportedly made significant admissions implicating members of the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in the planning of the attack. The Mumbai siege was orchestrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a longtime proxy of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

Ansari allegedly directed Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman to survive the attack, and other terrorists from a control room in Karachi, Pakistan. As an Indian national, Ansari taught the attackers about Mumbai and Indian culture. Ansari was also reportedly involved in the terrorists’ training in a camp run inside Kashmir. The training was headed by Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, LeT’s military commander.

According to the Times of India, Ansari communicated with the Mumbai attackers from the Pakistani control room. Ansari’s voice was recorded by Indian authorities. He “also coached the killers to wrong-foot the Indian investigators and global community by posing as members of a fictional Indian outfit: Deccan Mujahideen.”

The Times of India also reports that Ansari has told authorities that LeT chieftain Hafiz Saeed was present in the control room during the attack. In April, the US government offered a $10 million bounty for Saeed’s capture. Saeed is protected by the Pakistani government.

Ansari was long suspected of involvement in criminal and terror-related activities. In 2006, he was implicated in a gun smuggling case. And Ansari has been connected to a terrorist attack in India in 2005 as well.

Indian investigators are reportedly exploring what Ansari knows about two Pakistani army officers who have also been tied to the assault on Mumbai. They are known as Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal, both of whom were directly involved in the terrorist attack.

Intercepted phone calls show that Mir, who has extensive ties to the ISI, helped direct the Mumbai attackers from Pakistan. This suggests that Ansari, who also reportedly directed the terrorists by phone, was in direct contact with Mir.

Major Iqbal paid David Headley, a key Mumbai conspirator who is imprisoned in the US, to conduct surveillance of the targeted locations in Mumbai.

There is an additional angle that Indian investigators may explore. Documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that the deceased al Qaeda master was in regular, direct contact with Saeed. The files also suggest that bin Laden and al Qaeda may have played a significant role in planning the attack on Mumbai. The surveillance reports paid for by the ISI’s man reportedly ended up in bin Laden’s hands. [See LWJ article, Report: Osama bin Laden helped plan Mumbai attacks.]

Ansari may have additional details about al Qaeda’s role in the operation.

Indian officials are confident that Ansari’s testimony has helped them expose the nexus between Pakistan and the Mumbai plotters. “Some state support was there for these people,” India’s home minister P. Chidambaram said during a press conference earlier this week. “The way we are going has put us in a good light and put Pakistan in a bad light,” Chidambaram added, according to The New York Times. “It is Pakistan which is under pressure and not India.”

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik responded, “We are proud of our ISI, which is defending Pakistan.”

“Why are you blaming Pakistan?” Malik said during a press conference on June 27. Pointing to Ansari’s Indian nationality, Malik continued: “He is your citizen. You fail to control your citizen.”

Ansari is considered the highest ranking Indian inside the Pakistan-based LeT.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • mike merlo says:

    I’d be curious to know how the Paki’s feel about the Saudi’s handing Ansari over to the Indians.

  • Don says:

    This should make life a great deal MORE interesting for the PAKs, who are already dealing with far more “interesting” things than they’d like.
    “May you live in interesting times.”
    (Ancient Chinese curse)
    Don // Kabul

  • Charu says:

    According to Kamran Shafi in Pakistan’s The Express Tribune: “It is said that every Pakistani ‘agency’; the government; and the FO (foreign office) exerted all kinds of influence/pressure on the Saudis for months on end, not to extradite the man to India. There is also the rumour that the COAS (chief of army staff – Kayani) just recently went for Umra with the then prime minister (Gilani) for this very purpose but that the Saudis were unmoved.”
    Ansari had a Pakistani passport, which was one of the arguments attempted by the Pakistanis to stop the extradition. The Saudi role is very interesting. Even they appear to be losing patience with their protege. My guess is that the US put considerable pressure and are seeking to build the case against Saeed.

  • gary says:

    the capture of ansari,and him implicating pakistan is to prove once again pakistan role in terrorism.So i think it may be time to put fear into pakistan isi by the money the us aid gives to pakistan,and divert it to indian to buy the latest weapons.Only a strong india with us miltary aid might make the pakistan government to do somethong about terrorism

  • Paul D says:

    Good post Gary.
    Why we choose Pakistan as an ally above India is beyond me.

  • Vyom says:

    Another one may also follow Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, wait for next 48 hours. Another suspect is in Saudi custody.

  • Vyom says:

    You chose Pakistan over India because Pakistan shares 1,640mi Durand line with Afghanistan.

  • Nic says:

    @Gary and @Paul D. The U. S. can cut three billion dollars a year going to Pakistan if the U. S. consumer would stop buying goods made in Pakistan. Textiles worth billions of dollars are imported into the United States each year. ( Source: Office of the United States Trade Representative, ) . Simply do not purchase any textile with Made in Pakistan on the label. Nothing is more convincing than the complete absence of sales. Inform the retailer that it is selling products from a country that supported Osama Bin Laden.
    Another option would be to limit student visas for Pakistani students. Since Pakistan has betrayed the American tax payer, I really do not want to subsidize the public university costs of a Pakistani student. Send your thoughts on this subject to your representative in Congress. .

  • gary says:

    nic,i know what you and what you mean,but the consumer will always buy,the cheapest product,no matter what country it is,especially in these difficult financial times

  • RJFloyd says:

    His bruised mugshot probably has Amnesty International and the U.N. howling. Good work boys!!!

  • Anon says:

    Easy to slip into” those third world countries and their police” stereotype eh?
    That mark on forehead ( called Zebiba in Arabic) has nothing to do with torture. It is a mark of namaz, a prayer callus due sadja & salat prostrations 5 times a day. You can see it many pictures. Fundamentalist muslim men try hard to develop this by rubbing and lightly bumping their forehead on hard ground or prayer rugs because they believe quran ( verse 48.29; “On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration” ) declares it as a mark of piety and submission.
    abu Jundal has not shown any regret or remorse but ” loves to expound on Islam and offers namaz five times a day during which he rubs his forehead against the floor as a true devout, told interrogators that the 2008 Mumbai carnage was “a part of his devotion for his religious duty called jihad”

  • Bruise? says:

    That is his prayer bump. Zawahiri has one too. This is how they show others their devoutness!

  • RJFloyd says:

    @ Anon… Thank-you for the information. Just goes to show even the most devout infidel (me), learns something new everyday. As to your comment regarding stereotyping, slipped hell, more like a full on sprint. Now you can correct me again if I am wrong, but the “police” had nothing to do with this mans capture. I would also be willing to bet his new captors will have no problem with assisting in his desire for a darker more pronounced Zebiba.


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