Indian authorities have arrested a man believed to have been remotely directing the terrorists who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people.
Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, who is also known as Abu Jundal, was arrested after officials in Saudi Arabia deported him at the request of the Indian government. Mr. Ansari is believed to be the only Indian who took part in the attack, orchestrated by Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Indian officials say that since his arrest on June 21, Mr. Ansari has played a critical part in potentially revealing the role of the Pakistani government and intelligence service in the attack. In custody, the LeT member has reportedly already told Indian authorities that officials from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military participated in planning the three-day attack on Mumbai.
India has long accused Pakistan of involvement in the attack, something that officials in Islamabad have denied. If Indian authorities verify Ansari’s claims, it is likely to strain relations even further between the two neighbors and isolate Pakistan on the international stage.
The Hindustan Times adds that cooperation between Saudi and Indian intelligence officials has increased markedly over the past two years as the Gulf state sees India’s rich potential as a growing oil market. Traditionally, Saudi Arabia has been a strong ally of Pakistan.
B. Raman, a retired Indian intelligence official, writes in Outlook India that despite India’s initial excitement over Ansari’s arrest, authorities still must confirm his identity. In addition to his Abu Jundal alias, he is believed to also have gone by the name, Abu Hamza. Mr. Raman explains that Abu Hamza has long been a popular nickname for LeT members dating back to the 1990s, making it difficult to confirm identities.
He is presently in police custody. But India’s anti-terrorism squad, however, says it is confident it can identify whether Ansari is the Abu Hamza and Abu Jundal wanted for the Mumbai attacks once he is in their custody.
As the only Indian national, Ansari is said to have relocated to Pakistan and played a critical role in training the attackers how to operate in Mumbai. According to Indian detectives, Ansari coached the gunmen of the Mumbai attacks on how to make the terrorist plot appear to be homegrown by saying they were Indian Muslims from the Tolichowki area of Hyderbad, reports The Guardian. The gunmen were also instructed to say the attack was revenge for the treatment of Muslims in Kashmir.
“He knows a lot. He claims that they prepared for years for the 26/11 attack and every person was assigned a separate task. Being a Maharashtrian, he was given the task to familiarize the killers with local dialect as well as Mumbai's topography. He instructed the gang on how to ask for directions and what to say if checked and quizzed,” said an Indian official familiar with the details of the interrogation according to the Times of India.