Key Lashkar operatives Sajid Mir and Muzammil Bhat still at large in Pakistan
India’s intelligence services and police investigators are reacting with scepticism to Pakistan’s new offers to assist them in investigating 26/11 suspect Zabiuddin Ansari, saying that country has done little to apprehend key suspects.
“Frankly,” a senior intelligence official in New Delhi told The Hindu , “we expect nothing. The reason we expect nothing is that, in over three years, we’ve got nothing.”
Key 26/11 commanders have so far evaded Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Perhaps most important among them is Sajid Mir— a man western intelligence services describe as the head of the Lashkar’s transnational operations. India’s intelligence services say Mr. Mir is living at his home, off the airport road in Lahore.
Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, convicted for his role in the surveillance operation that led the 26/11 assault team to its targets, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Mr. Mir had hands-on control of the 26/11 plot — an assessment that Mr. Ansari is believed to have confirmed.
French-born Willie Brigitte, arrested for an abortive terror plot in 2003, told investigators that Mr. Mir had responsibility for training western jihadists who began arriving at the Lashkar’s camps after 9/11. Mr. Brigitte said the Lashkar commander, sporting a thick beard, would swagger along the camps with a Russian-made automatic pistol on his hip, two bodyguards at his side.
Jean Louis Bruguiére, the French judge who investigated the Brigitte case, later wrote that the evidence showed Mr. Mir “was a high-ranking officer in the Pakistani Army and apparently also was in the ISI.” Mr. Ansari, intelligence sources have told The Hindu , has also claimed to have been told Mr. Mir had served in the Pakistan Army — but had no details of when, or what rank he held.
Born in 1976, according to documents filed in order to obtain a visa to attend an India-Pakistan cricket match in 2005, Mr. Mir grew up in a middle-class ethnic-Punjabi home. Indian investigators say his father, Abdul Majid, was a partition refugee; Mr. Mir is believed to be married to the daughter of a retired Pakistani army Maulvi, by whom he has two sons.
Ever-mindful of secrecy, Mr. Headley told the FBI, Mr. Mir even underwent plastic surgery in 2005 after his visit to India.
Muzammil Bhat, Mr. Mir’s immediate subordinate and the man responsible for training the assault team, is also still at large. Pakistan claims Bhat — also known by the names Yusuf and Mohammad Muzammil — evaded a December, 2008, raid on the Lashkar’s training camp at Shawai Nullah, near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
In 2009, though, journalists Adnan Khan and Michael Petrou reported that they had sighted Mr. Bhat at the Lashkar’s Dulai camp.
Lashkar chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who the surviving 26/11 terrorist Muhammad Ajmal Kasaab said motivated the assault team, also remains free. Mr Saeed was briefly held after 26/11, but never charged with offences related to the terrorist attack. Released from prison after the intervention of the Lahore High Court, Mr. Saeed has held dozens of public rallies in recent months.
Lashkar military commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, his deputy Mazhar Iqbal, also known as Abu al-Qama, and Abdul Wajid, who used the alias Zarar Shah, are the highest-ranking Lashkar commanders to be brought to trial in Pakistan.
The FIA officials, however, have failed to secure judicial permission to conduct forensic tests to match the men’s voices against phone calls made from the Lashkar control room to the attackers — meaning there is little hard evidence to connect them to the attack.
The failure, Indian investigators allege, is part of a pattern of less-than-transparent investigative conduct.
Even though the FIA interrogated three men present in the Lashkar control room, it failed to discover that Mr. Ansari had been there.
The FIA’s investigation also made no mention of Mr. Headley’s reconnaissance operation, even though Lashkar commanders familiar with it were in their custody.
In a dossier submitted to India in 2009, the FIA said that Lashkar office-bearers transferred funds “for terrorist activities and operations in Mumbai.” The dossier was, however, silent on who they were.