Report: Al Qaeda trained Mumbai attackers


Abu Jundal. Image from The Hindu.

Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, the alleged facilitator of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, has proven to be a “treasure trove of information” for Indian investigators, according to new reports in the Indian press. Ansari has reportedly revealed that al Qaeda was tasked with training the Mumbai attackers in a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) training camp close to the Pakistan-Iran border.

It is not entirely clear where the camp was located, as Ansari has been unable to pinpoint its location for investigators. But according to at least one article, the LeT camp was inside Afghanistan. LeT terrorists are known to operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ansari (a.k.a. Abu Jundal) was captured inside Saudi Arabia and then transferred to Indian custody in June. [See LWJ report, Key Mumbai plotter arrested in Saudi Arabia.]

The Deccan Chronicle reports that Ansari’s interrogation reports say he has explained that there is a “great degree of coordination now between Lashkar, Al Qaeda and even the Taliban.”

LeT reportedly called in al Qaeda to train its operatives because it was convinced that the organization could do a better job of preparing them for the Mumbai siege. Although 22 to 25 operatives were initially selected for the training, only 10 were able to complete it.

“Had all the 25 militants completed the training and made it to Mumbai the carnage would have been much worse,” a senior Indian official told the Deccan Chronicle.

Bin Laden’s documents

This is not the first time al Qaeda has been linked to the Mumbai attacks. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan safe house reportedly show that the deceased al Qaeda master may have played a role in the plot. [See LWJ article, Report: Osama bin Laden helped plan Mumbai attacks.]

The Hindustan Times previously reported that bin Laden was in close contact with Hafiz Saeed, the wanted LeT chief. Citing Bruce Riedel, a former advisor to President Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Hindustan Times said bin Laden’s documents prove the extensive relationship between al Qaeda’s deceased emir and LeT.

“The documents and files found in Abbottabad showed a close connection between Bin Laden and Saeed, right up to May 2011,” Riedel told the Hindustan Times. Riedel added that the captured files “suggested a much larger direct al Qaeda role in the planning of the Mumbai attacks than many assumed,” and said bin Laden may have seen surveillance reports prepared by David Headley, the LeT operative who scouted out locations for the Mumbai siege.

The revelation of Hafiz Saeed’s ties to bin Laden also reportedly led the US to offer a $10 million bounty for the LeT chieftain in April. The relationship between Saeed and bin Laden is hardly surprising as al Qaeda and LeT have cooperated with one another since the 1990s. Bin Laden is also said to have played a direct role in LeT’s founding.

Still another al Qaeda link to the Mumbai attacks may be found in Ilyas Kashmiri’s role. Kashmiri reportedly took part in planning the operation. Kashmiri, a longtime commander in another al Qaeda-allied terrorist group, Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), played a prominent role inside al Qaeda prior to his demise in 2011. Kashmiri was the head of Lashkar al Zil, or al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, which operates in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kashmiri was also tasked with plotting attacks against Western and other targets. In January 2010, a US federal grand jury indicted Kashmiri for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

One of Kashmiri’s co-conspirators in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper plot was David Headley. It was Headley who performed surveillance on the targets selected for the Mumbai attacks. And it was Headley’s surveillance reports that may very well have ended up in bin Laden’s hands.

Tension over Pakistan’s role

Indian investigators are questioning Ansari about not only LeT’s ties to al Qaeda, but also about LeT’s ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment. At least two Pakistani army officers have been connected to the plot and to Headley. One of them gave Headley the cash used to perform the surveillance in Mumbai.

The LeT has long been a Pakistani proxy. LeT chieftain Hafiz Saeed is protected by Pakistan to this day, even though there is a large bounty on his head.

Indian authorities say that, based on Ansari’s interrogations, Saeed may have even been inside a “control room” in Karachi that was used to coordinate the Mumbai attacks.

Ansari’s “interrogations now prove beyond doubt the existence of such a control room,” India’s home minister P. Chidambaram told reporters last week. “Such a control room could not have been established without some kind of a state support.”

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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  • Charu says:

    I hope that the Indians are working closely with the CIA and Mossad in this case; the attack on Chabad House indicated the global design of Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism. You would think that the Saudi intelligence had worked this creep before handing him over to the Indians and shared the information with the agency, but like everyone else they were probably operating on the short-sighted notion of good and bad terrorists until it bit them in the behind.

  • Spurwing Plover says:

    Annialate AL QUEDA

  • Ken North says:

    Kashmiri’s prominent role in these complex attacks is hardly surprising in light of his Pakistani military background and demonstrated capabilities.
    Given his HUJI connections, it would be interesting to know if Kasmiri was involved in the breathtaking cascade of bombings in Bangladesh, August, 2005:
    459 detonations;
    300 cities;
    30 minute time frame.
    It’s particularly reassuring that the USG says he’s dead.
    Hopefully, this time he’ll stay dead.

  • mike merlo says:

    Based on the Obama’s Administration recent penchant security leaks if I was Mossad & RAW I’d be careful what ‘I’d’ ‘share’ with them.

  • It is a bit of a puzzle as to why the Saudis decided to hand over Ansari to the Indians, given this:
    The govt-sponsored Saudi charities have funded the parent organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) at least until the Mumbai attacks.
    Hafiz Saeed has deep ties to the Wahhabi establishment (that provides legitimacy to the ruling House of Saud).
    The Wahhabi establishment is actively pursuing the caliphate dreams, which necessarily involves destroying India (with the help of LeT—ISI combo) and creating a contiguous Muslim majority landmass through India.
    My read is that Saudi Arabia handed over Ansari for tactical reasons. If Washington thinks that Saudi Arabia is changing its ways, it just has to remind itself how the Pakis took it for a ride – 10+ years and $20 billion counting…

  • Tony Buzan says:

    After the massacre at the Golden Temple, it is not clear to me that all things Hindu are the Messiah.

  • Daniel Pearl is the one who knew this.Not about individual attacks but about alqueda, Pakistan army ,LET, Prof Hafeez, General Hamid Gul, and those two Brtish terrorists who escaped with state connivance, the picture is still not fully clear which includes the Al Umma of south India and also the original demand of 33 terrorists which were wanted released by Taliban in exchange for Kandahar hijacked IAC passengers.I think we will never know.

  • villiger says:

    Wikipedia has the background to his arrest well-pieced together:
    The convergence of US and India’s interests and cooperation is obvious. The recent listing of Hafeez Saeed by the US is also not unrelated to this. The US has the LeT in its sights and recognises the significant danger of its aspirations. Paragliding training is the sort of obnoxious inventiveness that AQ would come up with. There are not just commonalities but an obvious actual connection between these terrorist murderers.
    Chinese training LeT men in paragliding: Abu Jundal

  • Vienna,July 3,2012
    It is a matter of time to put together all information for
    cross checking before Hafeed Saeed and his brother in law
    Makki are booked at the cost of 12 million dollars award announced by the U.S.As for Saudis they have to prove their credibility to the outside world. Especially because the
    number of Saudis involved in September 11th hijack
    attack.They are besides aware the implications of the Arab Spring for the Keeper of Holy Places. From Mali´s Timbuktu
    to the whole of Pakistan territory the extended Arabia
    remains exposed.Not a small matter.The progress proves
    that the non-Islamic world is right according to plan.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • Devin Leonard says:

    All the more reason to keep after the Taliban, Al Qaida AND IRAN!!!! If Iran is alllowing training camps in their border, we should be allowed to bomb them.

  • villiger says:

    Tony Buzan
    “After the massacre at the Golden Temple, it is not clear to me that all things Hindu are the Messiah.”
    When you’re not clear, you are confused.
    Can you provide context to whatever you are trying to say? The context being this story.

  • villiger says:

    “By 2010, when it was established that Ansari was Jundal, US interest in the case heightened, given that he was plotting attacks against US targets. Indian and US agencies began discussing how they would corner Ansari and while they explored several options, they had decided at the start that Pakistan’s help should not be sought in this case.”
    This is extracted from a web news site, though originally sourced from the Indian Express and therefore reliable. Makes very interesting reading.
    The US may have apologised to Paq but there is zero trust there, quite rightly.


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