Pakistan provided “safe haven” to Zabiuddin Ansari

Even as Indian investigators continue to grill Syed Zabiuddin Ansari to join missing pieces of the 26/11 conspiracy, Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday asked Pakistan to cooperate and hand over “state actors” and other terrorists involved in the Mumbai terror attack case.

“The terrorists who planned and carried out attacks in Mumbai were trained in several places [in Pakistan], infrastructure was provided to them [to carry out attacks], a control room was set up…the logical inference we have to make is that all this could not have happened without state support. Pakistan should admit this,” Mr. Chidambaram told journalists here.

“Safe haven”

Pointing out that Pakistan provided a “safe haven” to Zabiuddin Ansari, the Home Minister said he agreed with Pakistan Senior Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik’s statement that the “key operative” behind the Mumbai attacks was radicalised in India.

“I admit that. Equally, Pakistan should admit that Zabiuddin Ansari did go to Pakistan; that he was part of the group which trained and prepared [Ajmal] Kasab and nine others; that he was in the control room and one of the masterminds and handlers of the attackers. Just as we admit the facts Pakistan too should admit the facts,” he said.

Asking Pakistan to hand over voice samples of the “others” who were present in the Karachi-based control room, the Minister said among those present there were Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who India believed was the mastermind behind 26/11.

Referring to the support provided to Zabiuddin Ansari in Pakistan, Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Pakistan should also admit that it gave him a passport and two identity cards. He was living in Saudi Arabia as a Pakistani, Mr. Singh added.

Mr. Chidambaram said Zabiuddin Ansari’s interrogation revealed that he was assigned the key responsibility of selecting 10 terrorists, including Ajmal Kasab, to carry out the attacks. He provided them intensive training and trained them in customs followed by Mumbaikars, besides playing an important role in the control room. “It is only when his interrogation is completed we will come to know who gave what support,” Mr. Chidambaram said without giving any further details.

How Zabiuddin was apprehended

Mr. Chidambaram said once Indian agencies came to know that one of the wanted persons in the Mumbai terror attack case had left Pakistan, we tracked him to Saudi Arabia. “But establishing his identity took us some time. Once we succeeded in doing that, we persuaded ‘everyone concerned’ and apprehended him...Final conclusion is that we tracked him, we identified him and we apprehended him,” he said without elaborating further.

Denying that there was any rift with the State police in seeking custody of Zabiuddin Ansari, Mr. Chidambaram said he was a suspect/accused in at least three other cases — the Ahmedabad Railway station blast case of February, 2006; the Aurangabad arms haul case of May 2006 and the German bakery blast case in Pune.

“Currently, the Delhi police and other investigation agencies are jointly interrogating Zabiuddin Ansari. In due course, he will be made available to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Mumbai and the Maharashtra police…I have told Maharashtra Chief Minister about this. He will also be interrogated by the Gujarat Police in the Ahmedabad blast case,” he clarified.

David Coleman Headley

Mr. Chidambaram further said India would discuss with the U.S. authorities the issue of extraditing Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley, who had recced the Mumbai terror attack targets on behalf of LeT.

Expressing the hope that Headley would get “long sentence” in the U.S. after being convicted in 26/11 case, Mr. Chidambaram said Indian agencies had already interrogated Headley in the U.S. “I think the further question is whether we will get further access to Headley, whether he would be extradited to India...These are matters to be discussed with the U.S. authorities,” he added. Headley initially worked with one of the U.S. government agencies before defecting to Pakistan and becoming an LeT operative.

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