Praveen Swami

Akmal Hashim said he heard Lashkar cadre claim responsibility for the July 11 terror strike

  • Hashim's possible role in the bombings subject of media speculation
  • He was unable to name the Lashkar terrorists he had met

    NEW DELHI: Akmal Hashim, a terrorist of Pakistani nationality, arrested from the Damal Hanjipora area of Jammu and Kashmir on August 23, was flown to Mumbai on Saturday. Belonging to the al-Badr militant outfit, Hashim is to be questioned for his possible role in the July 11 serial terror strikes in the metropolis.

    Hashim's possible role in the Mumbai serial bombings has been the subject of intense media speculation ever since he was held near the village of Nandimarg in the course of an operation by the 3 Para Commando regiment.

    According to Hashim's interrogation report, a copy of which has been exclusively obtained by , a group of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists with whom he had been billeted in the Gool-Gulabgarh high-altitude forests of Udhampur claimed organisational responsibility for the bombings.

    "Mujhe Lashkar ke bhaiyon ne bataya ki hamney blast karaye [the Lashkar brothers told me that their organisation had executed the bombings]," the report records Hashim as saying. However, the report also makes clear that none of the Lashkar operatives Hashim spoke to either claimed to have executed the bombings or to know the actual perpetrators. Hashim was also unable to name the Lashkar terrorists he had met.

    Investigators sceptical

    Police and Intelligence Bureau personnel handling the Mumbai serial bombings investigation have dismissed media claims that Hashim might have had a role in the terror strikes. "We've long known that the Lashkar carried out the bombings and that its units in Jammu and Kashmir might have had links to the perpetrators," one intelligence official said. "So Hashim's disclosure is less than spectacular."

    Hashim, belonging to Gujrat town in Pakistan, served as a Lance Naik in the Pakistan Army until 1996. After resigning from the Army, he joined the al-Badr, a Pakistan-occupied Kashmir based terror group with a significant presence in Jammu province. Hashim served in Jammu and Kashmir for several years, but is not believed to have participated in any operation of significance.

    Mumbai police officials, who have identified the cells which executed the bombings but are yet to arrest the actual perpetrators, admitted that there was little real hope that Hashim had information of significance on the terrorist strikes, which claimed almost 200 lives. "We know we're grasping at straws," a senior police official told The Hindu, "but we cannot afford to ignore even the least likely leads."

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