Monday, February 09, 2009
A non-state actor's response to the Mumbai Attacks Dossier
It has been almost a month that the Indian Government handed over a 'Mumbai Attacks Dossier' to Pakistan . It has been claimed that the dossier clearly implicates Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan based organization of religious leanings, in the Mumbai attacks that killed over 170 people.
The dossier given to Pakistan , and to other countries, was made public by the Daily Hindu. We thank that fine newspaper.
If you go through the compilation superficially, you would be impressed by the details provided in the 69-page dossier. But do a more diligent reading, taking notes as you turn pages, and you would find that the document raises more questions than it answers.
Let's start with the biggest hole in the story the dossier tells us. The source of the Mumbai attack story, as narrated in the dossier, is one person, Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist captured alive. The dossier does not name a single witness ready to corroborate the pre-attack part of the story—the most important part that tells you the origin of the terrorists. And what do we know about the identity of the person in captivity? It appears there is a consensus. Pakistan has accepted India 's claim that the person in custody of the Indian police is indeed Ajamal Kasab, a resident of Faridkot, district Okara. But our credibility in this police investigation stops right there. How do we know if Kasab is indeed the narrator of the story being told in the dossier? And even if he is, why should we believe the confession was not extracted out of him under duress? Let's be honest. We trust the Indian Police as much as we trust the Pakistani Police i.e., NOT AT ALL. Our police can make a dog out of a cat. Police obtained confessions are a joke in our part of the world; day in and day out such 'incriminating' statements are rejected by independent courts. The dossier does have photographs of 'material evidence' collected from various places--this evidence would have been a powerful proof had we not seen cases of police-planted evidence.
But for the sake of argument, let's disregard the biggest hole in the story and keep reading the dossier. According to the dossier, "The terrorists started in a small boat from Karachi at approximately 0800 hrs on November 22, 2008. After traveling for about 40 minutes, they were shifted to a larger boat, 'Al-Husseini', which, according to the captured terrorist, belongs to Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Chief Commander of the LeT. There were already seven LeT members on boards."
Does Al-Husseini really exist? Why is there no news of this ship? Is the whole Pakistan collaborating with ISI and LeT to hide the facts from the international media?
"The terrorists spent the entire day on board the Al-Husseini. On November 23, 2008, at about 1500 hours, the captured terrorist noticed another boat docked next to the Al-Husseini. This was an Indian registered fishing vessel called MV Kuber, which had five crewmembers."
What does it mean that the terrorist noticed a boat docked next to Al-Husseini? We thought the terrorists were actively moving towards India . This sentence in the dossier makes it sound like the terrorists were on a fishing trip.
From media reports it appears that subsequent to the release of the dossier Kasab "provided" important details about how the terrorists got control of MV Kuber. But we are not told why the Kuber crew was not in communication with the Indian Coast Guard.
But let's keep reading the dossier. The ten terrorists are now aboard MV Kuber; Mr. Solanki, the captain of MV Kuber, is steering the ship towards Mumbai. Did any radio communication take place in that long journey: any communication with another ship, with Coast Guard? Is there any record of such communication?
"The ten terrorists performed watch duties on board MV Kuber. Log sheets maintained by them have been seized (Annexure-V).
"The MV Kuber reached a point four nautical miles off Mumbai at 1600 hours on November 26, 2008.
"As soon it was dark, the team leader, Ismail Khan, contacted their handler in Pakistan , who directed them to kill Amar Singh Solanki, the captain of MV Kuber."
Here is a crime scene we need more information about. The dossier does mention MV Kuber as material evidence but we don't get to see any photos of the ship, the position in which Solanki's body was found, etc. The next version of the dossier should include the autopsy report of Solanki indicating time and cause of death.
"After killing Solanki, the terrorists, along with their weapons and IEDs, boarded the inflatable dinghy. They traversed the last four nautical miles to Mumbai in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, reaching the locality of Badhwar Park (Cuffe Parade) in South Mumbai at about 2030 hours."
The maritime expertise demonstrated by the terrorists would make you believe that the terrorists not only got training from ISI, they were probably also trained by the Pakistan Navy.
From media reports the marina at Badhwar Park seems to be a busy place--and the terrorists had to reach a bustling beach because they had to catch taxis. If Badhwar Park is such a busy place then we need testimonies of people who saw a dhingy full of ten men and their bags reaching that marina. There have been news reports about one Anita Uddaiya who claims to have seen six (6) people landing at the beach in a rubber boat. But after Uddaiya's recent claim of being taken to the US by FBI and brought back to India within three days there are serious doubts about her mental stability. Furthermore, Uddaiya's statement about seeing six people reaching Mumbai contradicts with dossier's claim of ten terrorists reaching together.
"After alighting, the ten terrorists divided into five teams according to the pairing decided earlier. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was paired with the group leader, Ismail Khan.
"They took taxis to different target destinations. IED devices were planted in two taxis and they later exploded—one at Wadi Bunder and the other at Vile Parle—killing the two taxi drivers."
How many taxis did the terrorists take? Two? Because of the visibility of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, other taxi drivers present at Badhwar Park must have remembered ten men with large bags getting into two taxis. Can we please have the testimonies of those taxi drivers or other people who were there at that time?
And how did ten terrorists with large bags fit into two taxis: it would be five terrorists and ten bags—one bag for gun and ammunition, the other for IED (improvised explosive device), as mentioned in the dossier--per taxi. Was there any argument about the fare? Do we have any witnesses of the situation? We can only imagine each team of terrorists putting its luggage in the trunk—fitting the bulky bags with some difficulty—and then three people sitting in the back seat, and two squeezing in the front passenger seat, with the front-sitting terrorist in the middle possibly placing his right leg on the driver side of the gear shaft. But then this tight squeeze in a taxi is not enough, one of the terrorist has to reach under the driver's seat and install an IED.
Apparently, the IED's in the taxis exploded after some time, i.e., after the terrorists left the taxis. How did the terrorists pay the taxi fare? Did the terrorists have Indian currency? And which team was dropped off where? Is there any evidence of people seeing those drop-offs? The two taxis are crime scenes as well. The dossier must give more information about them.
"CST Railway Station. At about 21:20 hrs, two terrorists (Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab and Ismail Khan) entered the station and started firing indiscriminately from their Kalashnikov rifles and also lobbed grenades. The carnage resulted in 58 dead and 104 injured.
"They were challenged by a small number of policemen at the station. They left the station, crossed an over-bridge and fled into a lane towards Cam Hospital . Near Cama Hospital they were challenged by a police team and there was an exchange of fire. As they exited the lane, they fired on a police vehicle carrying three senior police officers and four policemen. Believing that all the occupants had been killed, they pulled out the bodies of the three police officers and hijacked the police vehicle.
How does it work that seven armed people in a vehicle are overpowered by two men fleeing on foot?
"However, only six were killed and one policeman survived the assault. He is Constable Arun Jadhav and is an eyewitness to the events."
Amazing how we only have a policeman who is eyewitness of this very important event. What about other people? Civilians walking by, vehicles that traveled on that road?
"After traveling some distance, the terrorists abandoned the police vehicle and hijacked another passenger car."
"The car came up against a police barricade at Girgaum Chowpatti and, in an exchange of fire with the police, Ismail Khan was killed and Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab was captured.
"An Assistant Sub-Inspector, Tukaram Ombale was killed while overpowering Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab. Two police officers were injured.
We need to know more detail of this 'police encounter.'
"The police recovered two Kalashnikov rifles, eight magazines, two pistols, ammunition, empty cases and five hand grenades from the two terrorists."
Eight magazines, ammunition, and five hand grenades is a lot of material to have in possession, after i) generously using ammunition at the railway station, ii) using ammunition in a police encounter that killed six policemen, and iii) using more ammunition in another police encounter in which the terrorists were finally maimed.
"Second Target: Leopold Cafe and Bar. At about 21:40 hrs, two terrorists (Hafiz Arshad and Naser) entered the Cafe and started firing indiscriminately using AK-47 assault rifles."
"One grenade was lobbed and it exploded. Ten persons were killed and many injured. After about five minutes, the two terrorists ran towards the Taj Mahal Hotel, situated about half a kilometer from the Café.
"Police later recovered from the scene of the attack five AK-47 magazines (of which three were empty and two contained 13 bullets), empty cases of ammunition, one metal butt of an AK-47 rifle and two mobile phones."
What happened to the other terrorist's AK-47?
"Taj Mahal Hotel.
Four terrorists (Shoaib and Javed and the two terrorists who attacked the Leopold Café and Bar, namely, Hafiz Arshad and Nasir) targeted the Taj Mahal Hotel. The first pair entered the main lobby at 21:38 hrs and opened fire, killing 20 persons in the first few minutes. The second pair entered the hotel from the North Court entrance at 21:43 hrs and fired indiscriminately and hurled grenades."
What was the first pair of terrorists doing while the second pair took care of business at Leopold Cafe? Was the first pair already in the hotel killing people, when the second pair entered? How did the two pairs meet each other amid chaos, in a place totally unfamiliar to them?
The first picture purportedly shows "pickle made in Pakistan ." The picture is fuzzy, but those who can differentiate between Urdu and Farsi scripts can clearly see that in picture is a detergent box from Iran --in Farsi it reads, "Pak bara-e Pakeezgi."
In the same annexure, two later pictures do correctly identify the box of 'detergent' but the country of manufacture is not corrected. I believe the Indian officials are confused because of the brand name of the detergent, Pak ('clean' in Farsi).
"This is the point from where the militants switched on their GPS and started their journey, as well as planned to return to this very point after completion of work."
We thought they were suicide attackers and had no plans to go back.
Later the dossier again mentions the return path:
"It seems that T007 and MAP were the RV for their intended return after the attack. The route to be followed would have been T007 through T001."
The dossier is discrepant in the names of the terrorists. Five names (Ajmal Kasab, Babar Imran, Hafiz Arshad, and Abdur Rehman) mentioned in the main document do not appear in the log of Kuber guards (Annexure V). Similarly names of four people (Saquib, Muheeb, Hijazi, and Mujahid) present in the Kuber log are not present in the main document.
In short, the devil is in the details; the more you scrutinize the individual parts of the Indian police narrative of the Mumbai attacks the more suspicious you become of the construct. The families of over 170 innocent people killed in Mumbai terrorist attacks deserve a more convincing document from the Indian Government.
[Photo courtesy of Gurinder Osan/Associated Press.]