Last winter, rubber dinghies carrying 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists nudged up against the Mumbai shoreline.
Now, the bodies of nine of those 10 men — killed in combat after murdering 166 children, women and men on November 26, 2008 — lie in a mortuary next to the Police Hospital in Nagpada.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has written repeatedly to Pakistani authorities, asking that they arrange for the repatriation of the remains of the two bodies which their investigators have conclusively identified, those of Imran Babar and Mohammad Altaf. There has been no response.
For Indian investigators, the seven still-unidentified bodies are a metaphor for their larger frustration over Pakistan’s inability — or, worse, unwillingness — to make available critical evidence.
Based on expert findings by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigators have long known the Lashkar assault teams used Garmin Global Positioning System sets embedded with latitude-longitude waypoints to locate their targets.
Each of these waypoints had been plotted on to maps downloaded from Google Earth’s service. Because of technical issues in mating the maps with the GPS sets, each team also had instructions that the waypoints were inaccurate by 0.3 degrees.
Last year, the Mumbai police arrested Fahim Arshad Ansari on charges of providing images of the city to the Lashkar. Ansari, along with Uttar Pradesh-based Lashkar operative Sabahuddin Ahmad, had been arrested months before the attacks for alleged plotting an attack on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
From arrested fidayeen Kasab’s testimony, it is evident that the assault team was shown extensive videotape of the interiors of their targets. But no evidence has ever emerged that Ansari had ever visited the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Trident Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel and Chabad House.
National Investigation Agency detectives are now exploring the possibility that David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, who were held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago last month, may have carried out pre-attack reconnaissance. Headley had videotaped targets in Copenhagen — and is known to have been tasked by the Lashkar with carrying out an attack in New Delhi.
So far, though, there is no evidence that either man was actually involved in Mumbai-related reconnaissance. That, in turn, opens up the possibility that a separate Lashkar cell — or cells — may have been tasked with conducting reconnaissance.
“Pakistan,” one senior Mumbai police official argues, “claims that it has the architects of the attack in its custody. Why, then, why can’t it tell us who the Lashkar had tasked to videotape the targets”?
Minutes after the attacks began, a junior Intelligence Bureau official in Mumbai picked up conversations between the assault teams and their handlers in Pakistan.
First believing that the instructions were being passed on to the assault units by handlers located in the city, the Mumbai police deployed direction-finding equipment. Hotels in the Colaba area were raided room-by-room, before it was established that the instructions were in fact being routed from Pakistan through a voice-over-internet protocol service located in the United States.
In January, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief announced the arrest of Barcelona-based Javed Iqbal, who they claimed had paid for the VOIP account.
Earlier this month, though, Italian investigators said that the owners of a Brescia-based money transfer service had misused Mr. Iqbal’s identification documents to make the payments. Two Pakistan-based men — whose identities have been withheld — are thought to have asked the Brescia money transfer service to wire the payment.
Lashkar organiser Iftikhar Ali, a resident of Browal Colony in Faisalabad, was earlier identified by the Pakistani investigators as having paid for the VOIP service. However, Ali is listed as a fugitive; the source of his funds has not been established.
Pakistani authorities identified Lashkar operative Abdul Wajid as one of the Lashkar operatives who used the VOIP account to guide and motivate the assault teams.
But investigators there have so far failed to provide voice samples for Wajid, who operated under the code-name ‘Z.arar Shah.’ Despite an official request, Indian authorities have also been denied photographs of Wajid, which would allow the Mumbai police to confirm if he is indeed the individual known as ‘Zarar Shah’ to jihadists who met him in the past.
Muzammil Bhat, the Lashkar’s key military commander, also remains a fugitive.
Bahawalpur-based Shahidi Jamil Riaz and Rahim Yar Khan resident Hammad Amin Sadiq have been charged, according to an official Pakistani dossier, with “planning, preparing, financing, arranging boats, logistics, training, facilitating and launching LeT terrorist attacks from Karachi.” However, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has not produced any evidence linking the two men to top Lashkar commanders.
Nor have they identified those who trained the assault team, nor acted to shut down any camps or logistical bases used for pre-attack preparation.