Mumbai attacker's hometown is in Pakistan
Residents say the gunman caught by Indian police comes from a village in Pakistan where Lashkar-e-Taiba has been recruiting young men for 'jihad.'
FARIDKOT, near Depalpur, Pakistan
The lone gunman captured alive by Indian police during last month's terrorist attack on Mumbai (formerly Bombay) comes from a dirt-poor village in Pakistan's southern Punjab region where a banned Islamist group has been actively recruiting young men for "jihad," according to residents of the village and official records seen by McClatchy Newspapers.Skip to next paragraph
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Ajmal Ameer Kasab, the dark-haired 21-year-old man arrested by Indian authorities in the first hours of the assault – in which more than 170 people died – left the village four years ago, several residents said. He would return once a year to see his small family home, and one villager recalled him talking about freeing the Muslim-dominated region of Kashmir from India.
His origins are a key to the investigation of the attack and could have a profound impact on relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, already at the brink of confrontation. Until now, the Pakistan government has repeatedly said that there was no solid evidence to back Indian accusations that the gunmen came from Pakistan.
A McClatchy reporter visited the village three times in four days and obtained official electoral records, which showed that Mr. Ajmal's parents, as named by the Indian authorities, indeed reside in the village.
At the time of the first visit on Wednesday, there was no sign of Pakistan plainclothes police. But the village mayor, Ghulam Mustafa Wattoo, confirmed that a man named Ameer lives in Faridkot, with a son named Ajmal. But he said Ameer claimed his son was not the man captured by Indian authorities.
But everything in the village fit the details leaked from the Indian police interrogation of Ajmal. Indian police identified the father as Mohammad Ameer, who earns a meager living selling homemade snacks from a mobile cart, and his wife as Noor. At the tiny family house, located on a narrow street deep inside Faridkot, the McClatlchy reporter on a second visit Friday noted a mobile food cart lying in the courtyard.
Ameer and his wife, Noor, were nowhere to be found. According to several villagers, who asked not to be named for their own security, "a bearded mullah" took them away during the night, likely, they thought, to be a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic extremist group accusing of being behind the Mumbai attack.
Mayor Wattoo led the visiting reporter to Ameer's house, where an elderly man named Sultan and a middle-aged woman named Miraj, who identified themselves as relatives, said the occupants had gone away "for a wedding."
But they gave inconsistent and changing stories, sometimes confirming that Ameer lives there, at other times denying it. The mayor, too, had attempted to delay the visit of a McClatchy reporter to the house Friday and changed his story at times. As a result of the delay, plainclothes Pakistani security officials got to the house before the reporter, and they appeared to have coached the occupants to throw visitors off the trail.
A villager, who asked not to be named for his own safety, told McClatchy: "These people are telling you lies. We know that boy [caught in Mumbai] is from Faridkot. We knew from the first night [of the attack]."
Shown a picture of Ajmal, he confirmed it was the young man from the village.
"They brainwash our youth about jihad. There are people who do it in this village. They tell them they'll get a ticket to heaven. It is so wrong," the villager added.
Another resident said separately that he recognized the face in the photograph, though he later changed his mind when other villagers crowded around.