The testimony of a witness on Thursday highlighted the role of 26/11 Mumbai attacks accused Sabahuddin Ahmed and Fahim Ansari in the terror conspiracy.
Nuruddin Mehboob Shaikh, a Mumbai driver who claimed to know Ansari and was in his room in Nepal, was witness to many an incriminating episode there. He deposed before the special sessions court on Thursday.
Shaikh, who lives in suburban Goregaon in the same neighbourhood as Ansari, told the court that he knew Ansari for 30 long years. While on a visit to Nepal in January 2008, he happened to meet Ansari in Kathmandu. Ansari invited him to his guesthouse on New Road for a chat. Around 8.30 p.m., Sabahuddin came to the room and asked Ansari, “Did you do the work assigned by Lakhvi?”
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, is one of India’s most wanted terror suspect against whom there is a Red Corner Notice.
An ill-timed moment and a clumsy move proved to be the nemesis of Ansari and Sabahuddin. According to the witness, Ansari opened a bag and was giving some papers to Sabahuddin, when he dropped them.
“I saw that they were maps. I asked Fahim whether he had started a new business of mapmaking,” Mr. Shaikh said.
To this, Sabahuddin replied, “Some of my friends from Pakistan want to visit Mumbai; they would need these maps.”
“I said they could get maps from anywhere. But Fahim said the maps do not have proper information and that is why one needed handmade maps,” Mr. Shaikh told the court.
Mr. Shaikh then dined with the duo. The next morning while strolling along New Road, he ran into Sabahuddin. He identified Ansari and Sabahuddin in court. He said the maps he saw were drawn on ruled sheets of paper resembling those from a school notebook. There were around eight to 10 such sheets, he said.
When the court asked Ansari if he wanted to ask anything, the accused denied knowing Mr. Shaikh. Both Ansari and Sabahuddin wore quizzical expressions as the witness gave his testimony.
In another development, Sandeep Shivane, who had plotted the markings obtained from the Global Positioning System (GPS) sets on the map of Mumbai, also deposed in court. As an expert in Maritime Studies, Mr. Shivane indicated the locations in Mumbai corresponding to the positions given in the GPS.
The attackers had used GPS handsets to navigate from Karachi to Mumbai. Mr. Shivane listed two sets of routes. One was the ocean route from South Karachi to South Mumbai and Gujarat to South Mumbai.
The other was a land route from Colaba to Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel via The Leopold Café.
The witness also tallied the marking in deceased accused Abu Ismail’s diary found on Kuber with the points (or waypoints) on the GPS.
Sabahuddin wanted to ask this witness why he had mentioned only two locations on land when there were nine such locations as testified by an officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The court did not entertain this question.