| Little is known of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab's background |
The image of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab clutching his gun at Mumbai railway station last year became a symbol of the attacks that horrified the world.
Prosecutors say the 21-year-old is the only surviving member of the group that launched a bloody rampage across the Indian city in November 2008, killing at least 166 people.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, security forces struggled to collect information about the young man.
Only after several months did Pakistan admit that he was their citizen, from the province of Punjab.
More specific details are hard to pin down. Indian officials originally portrayed him as a middle-class boy who spoke good English.
But subsequent reports suggested he came from a remote village called Faridkot, where his father sold food.
He had received little education, the reports said, and had spent his youth alternating between labouring and petty crime.
In an interview with Pakistani media, a resident of Faridkot identified Mr Qasab as his son. He said that he had left home four years before the attacks.
"He had asked me for new clothes on Eid [the Muslim festival] that I couldn't provide him. He got angry and left," Dawn newspaper quoted the man as saying.
At some point, India says, Mr Qasab came under the influence of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. After training in one of several remote camps, they say, he was hand-picked for the Mumbai operation.
India says there is little doubt that he was involved in the attacks.
| Mr Qasab was captured after a shoot-out with police|
He was captured on camera at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a slight figure in combat trousers and a blue sweatshirt, clutching an assault rifle.
He "walked as if no-one can touch him", a photographer who took the picture of him told the court in June.
"Initially I saw two dark figures. They fired towards the ticket window. When they opened fire towards us it confirmed they were terrorists," Sebastian D'Souza said.
Captured after a shoot-out with police, Mr Qasab was interrogated and then charged with 86 offences including murder and waging war on India.
Prosecutors said he had confessed - but his lawyers then said his statement had been coerced, and it was retracted.
His trial began in March and in the early days, correspondents say, he appeared relaxed. He smiled periodically and occasionally joked with officials.
His defence had attempted to argue that he was under 18 and so a minor. Asked in May to confirm his age, he provoked laughter by stating that if prosecutors had believed him then he would not now be in court.
Later his demeanour grew more serious, even erratic.
When a 10-year-old girl injured in the attacks identified him in court, witnesses said he looked grave. When Mr D'Souza testified in June, the young man put his head down and wept.
Court officials on all sides were said to be taken aback by his decision - after several months in court - to plead guilty.
And questions remain over why Mr Qasab confessed after so many months of defiance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------Surprise confession by surviving Mumbai gunman
By ERIKA KINETZ (AP) – 1 hour ago
MUMBAI, India — The lone surviving gunman in the Mumbai attacks made a surprise confession at his trial Monday, saying he was recruited by a militant group inside Pakistan after he left a low-paying job and went looking for training to become a professional robber.
The confession by Ajmal Kasab bolstered India's charges that terrorist groups in neighboring Pakistan were behind the well-planned attack, and that it is not doing enough to clamp down on them. The attack in which 166 people died severely strained relations and put the brakes on a peace process between the nuclear-armed enemies.
As part of the confession, Kasab described how he sprayed automatic gunfire at commuters while a comrade hurled grenades inside a railway station during one of India's worst terrorist acts.
"I was in front of Abu Ismail who had taken such a position that no one could see him," Kasab told the court. "We both fired, Abu Ismail and I. We fired on the public," he said, speaking in Hindi.
Kasab, a Pakistani who had consistently denied a role in the November rampage, reversed himself without warning, shocking even his lawyer.
In a calmly delivered statement, Kasab described how the attackers were sent from Karachi, Pakistan, by four men — some of them known leaders with the Pakistan-based Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
They traveled by boat arriving Nov. 26 in Mumbai, where they unleashed three days of mayhem. The 10 gunmen, armed with automatic rifles and grenades, split into pairs and killed people at a railway station, a Jewish center, a hospital and two five-star hotels, including the Taj Mahal.
Seema Desai, an analyst at the Eurasia Group in London, said Kasab's assertions could "increase tensions between India and Pakistan."
"Most likely Pakistan will not give his statements much credence and will question the circumstances under which he changed his story," she said in an e-mail.
Kasab faces the death penalty if convicted on the charges of murder and waging war against the country.
As the 66th day of Kasab's trial started Monday morning, he stood up just as a prosecution witness was to take the stand, and addressed the judge.
"Sir, I plead guilty to my crime," said Kasab, 21, triggering a collective gasp in the courtroom.
After a debate on the legality of such a confession, Kasab's statement was recorded, and the judge said he would have Kasab sign each page of the document, which would be reviewed by his lawyer, formally reversing his plea from innocent to guilty.
Kasab said he and Abu Ismail went to the Chatrapati Shivaji railway station in a taxi and left a bomb in the vehicle.
"I went to the restroom and attached a battery to a bomb and put it in a bag. Abu followed me to restroom and I asked him what I should do with the bomb."
"'Let's see,' Abu told me," he said.
They moved to the railroad station hall, packed with commuters. Abu Ismail put the bag near a pillar and stood close to a wall where they began shooting at people. Soon, policemen joined the fight. The bomb never exploded.
"I was firing and Abu was hurling hand grenades ... I fired at a policeman after which there was no firing from the police side," Kasab said.
From the railway station, where they killed more than 50, the two went to Cama hospital. A few more were killed there. The pair then went to the Chowpatty beach in a hijacked vehicle where Ismail was killed and Kasab was captured after a shootout with the police.
Kasab was treated for wounds and has since been held in solitary confinement in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail where the trial is being conducted.
The siege of Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, ended Nov. 29 with troops storming the Taj Mahal Hotel where some gunmen were holding hostages. All attackers except Kasab were killed.
Kasab said his confession was not coerced. "There is no pressure on me. I am making the statement of my own will," he said.
As part of the confession, he told how he became involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba. He said he became unhappy with his low wages as a shop assistant in the town of Jhelum in Pakistan, and left for Rawalpindi with the intention of becoming a professional robber.
While attending a festival in Rawalpindi, he and a friend decided to seek out the mujahedeen, who they thought could help train them as bandits. They went to a local bazaar and were directed to the local Lashkar office, he said.
Before being sent to India, Kasab said he lived in a house in Pakistan's largest city Karachi for a month-and-a-half with 10 other young men. All of them were transferred to another home and taken to sea where they met four handlers.
One of them was an Indian, who taught the attackers Hindi, he said.
Kasab confessed after his capture, but later withdrew that statement, saying it had been made under duress.
Last week, the Pakistan government gave a dossier to India providing new evidence of Lashkar-e-Taiba's role in the attack, and naming Kasab as a participant.
Asked by judge M.L. Tahiliyani why he confessed now, Kasab said it was because the Pakistani government recently acknowledged he was a Pakistani citizen, dealing a blow to his defense.
"If Pakistan has accepted me as its citizen, then end this case and punish me for my crime," he said. "My request is that we end the trial and I be sentenced."
Tahiliyani said no immediate judgment would be issued and the trial will resume Tuesday.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit declined to comment on Kasab's court admission, but events took those at the hearing by surprise.
"Everybody in the court was shocked the moment he said he accepts his crime. It was unexpected," public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said. "We have finally extracted the truth."
Kasab said he killed fewer people than the prosecution alleges. Nikam said the confession could be a ploy to try for a lighter sentence.
An Indian court issued arrest warrants in June for 22 Pakistani nationals accused of masterminding the attacks, including Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba and two other leaders of the group named by Kasab as being involved.
Associated Press writer Rajesh Shah in Mumbai contributed to this report.
Excerpts from Mumbai suspect's confession
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab has given a detailed confession of events leading up to the attacks on various targets in Mumbai in November 2008 that killed nearly 170 people. Here are excerpts of his confession provided by the BBC's Prachi Pinglay who was in court:
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab opened fire on commuters, it is alleged|
"In CST [railway station], Abu Ismail and I started firing at the public there with our AK-47 rifles. Ismail was throwing grenades also. I was firing. We went ahead towards the hall. The police caught up with us at the time and started firing at us. We retaliated. Ismail took position behind the trains which were parked. I took position behind him. I fired at the police."
They then leave the station and enter Cama hospital.
"We went up the staircase to the first floor. Ismail went in first and gestured to me to come after him. Ismail told me: "Let's hide here". All the doors were locked there. On the fifth floor, we saw a door ajar. We went inside the ward and met four people there. Those people have come to court… We went to the terrace. Ismail told them to lie down first with their hands on the back. While three agreed, the fourth didn't [referring to Harshvardhan Shrivardhankar, who was an important witness at the trial]. Ismail told me to lock them up in the bathroom. I told them not to create any commotion."
Then he moves on to talk about the first brush with police. Police officer Sadanand Date's evidence matches this account.
"Meanwhile, the person who we asked said that we have to go back the same way. We asked him to walk ahead of us. The witness indicated that there is police ahead of us. As soon as he got down, we saw the police. We ran back to the terrace. Ismail was near the terrace. He started firing immediately. He directed me to keep watch on the terrace.
"We then ran downstairs. Someone fired at me. I fired back. Ismail first went ahead to check if the coast was clear. He then gestured that I should step out of the compound."
As they step out, a police vehicle with three senior police officers comes towards them. In this encounter, three of them died and Qasab sustained injuries.
"We could then see the headlights of another vehicle. We hid behind the bushes there. As soon as the vehicle came, there was firing from it. Ismail also fired. I sustained injury on right forearm, right elbow and left wrist [pointing to his scars]. I fell down. The firing, however, continued.
I was surrounded by police. One snatched my gun, the others started punching me on my abdomen... I then lost consciousness and woke up only in the hospital |
"Ismail then proceeded towards the vehicle. While checking the vehicle, he fired once. I had gained consciousness by then. I held my gun on the right arm and opened the car door. I removed two bodies. I don't know how many bodies Ismail removed from his end. Ismail sat on the driver's seat while I sat on the seat next to him."
He then describes how they hijacked a Skoda after the police vehicle's wheel was punctured. As they sped along they saw police barriers.
"Soon, we saw some police barriers. The white car passed, but police asked us to stop. One policeman came right in front of the car. Abu got confused and tried to take a U-turn. Suddenly the wipers also started. The police came and opened the door. They took hold of my collar. I was surrounded by police. One snatched my gun, the others started punching me on my abdomen. They continued to assault me. I then lost consciousness and woke up only in the hospital."
The judge asked if he fired any bullets, and Qasab replied: "I didn't fire since I didn't have the gun with me."
He described how they came to Mumbai.
"We were 10 of us. We were put on a small boat in Karachi. Four people - Abu Hamza, Abu Kafa and Abu Jhundal and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi - sent us off.
I installed the battery of the bomb in the bathroom. It has my name on it. This detail is not there in the charge sheet |
"Abu Ismail was our Amir [boss]. The others are Abu Umar, Abu Akasha alias Babar Imran, Abu Umer alias Nazir, Abu Shoaib, Abu Ali alias Javed, Abdul Rehman Chota, Abdul Rehman Bada, Hafiz Arshad, and Abu Fadalluh (whose fingers are cut)."
From Karachi they took a small boat. Then they were transferred to bigger boat called al-Hussaini. Then took another boat, the MV Kuber hijacked off Gujarat coast. Four people on the Kuber were killed and a fifth, Solanki, was kept alive for navigation. He was killed as they reached Indian shore.
"We filled in the 10 bags and shifted them in the inflatable boat. The bomb produced in court was also shifted. Each bag has AK-47 rifle, pistol, eight hand grenades, three sets of magazines. Abu Ali and Abdul Rehman Bada took a bag with loose AK-47 cartridges. One Nokia mobile handset was given to each group. There were three big grenades, two small, three black hand grenades (china made).
"Once we sat down, the rope which was holding the inflatable dingy was cut. When we reached near the shore, the GPS was broken and thrown in the water. There were five GPS sets in all. However, I left ours in the boat.
"We reached the shore. We were told to make a phone call... by Abu Hamza. I asked Ismail how we would reach Pakistan. Ismail said I should not worry.
"We got into a taxi after some time. Hamza had told us to keep a bomb in the taxi. I sat on the front seat, while Ismail sat on the back. I kept my bag, containing a bomb in the rear seat. Ismail also had a bomb.
"We got off at CST after which Ismail paid the taxi driver. I had a bomb with me. We entered the gate of CST and went to the side of the bathroom. I took my bag with me and went inside the urinal. I installed the battery of the bomb in the bathroom. It has my name on it. This detail is not there in the charge sheet…
"As per directions of Kafa, I kept my gun ready while Ismail threw grenades. Kafa told us to get into the next hall after that.
In the last session he described how he joined the Mujahideens and underwent training.
"Last year, during Bakr-Id, I was working as a decorator in Jhelum city. But I was unhappy with the meagre amount that I would make.
I was told here that I was going for a "big training" and I was taught exercises, operations weapons like AK-47, guns and pistols |
"My friend Muzaffar suggested that for better money, we should get into robbery and dacoity [armed robbery]. I left the decorator's job and went to Rawalpindi with Muzaffar and took a room on rent. We decided to commit dacoity at a bungalow, as Muzaffar told me his friend knows details about its owner.
"As he went to his village to gather more details, I was roaming alone at Rawalpindi's Raza market. I saw some Mujahideens - long beard, long hair - buying animal skins there."
From here on he describes in detail different places he visited and the different levels of training he received. He starts from the office in the market.
"We went there and knocked the door. A man opened it and asked me what had I come for. I told him we had come for Jihad, so he let us in. One person asked me my name, address and asked me to return next morning with extra clothes.
"We returned with our baggage and we were given a chit on which was written the address - Marqaz Tayyeba, Muridke. The chit was given to a third person and he was given money, and the three of us were told to board a Lahore-bound bus to reach Muridke.
Twenty-one days later he was sent to Mansera with a chit saying Marqas-e-Aqsa. Then he was taken to Battal jungle for further training. After this he did not see his friend, Muzaffar.
"I was told here that I was going for a "big training" and I was taught exercises, operations weapons like AK-47, guns and pistols. After the training, I would cook food and do other daily work as over three months went by.
"Abu Abdul Rehman asked him to get identity card from my native Okhada district. I was asked to go to Muzaffarabad and asked to visit Saeed bhai's office. He told them that he was there for Daura-E-Khaas and filled a form in Urdu with all details.
"… Abu Maaviya was our trainer and trained me for three months in operating rocket launchers, grenades, AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons.
He spent a week at home and returned to Saeed bhai's office. Later Saeed bhai, Abu Kafa and Abu Hamza came there and selected 15 of them. Abu Kahfa was with them for the longest part of training.
"Of the 15 of us, two had run away, while six were sent to Kashmir. So seven of us were left, to which three other boys were added, making us 10 in all - five pairs… sent to Mumbai.
On two occasions, Hamza showed Ismail and Qasab movies and pictures of CST station on his laptop.
"Two days later, we were given trousers and T-shirts, and our photographs were taken and our fake identity cards were made for the mission."
They stayed there for another 90 days. They were also trained to use the inflatable dinghy (boat).
"We were given arms and ammunition to keep in our bags. This ammunition was transported to Al-Hussaini before we were taken to it. Kafa took us to the Karachi shore where Al-Hussaini was anchored."
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi, Hamza and Abu Jundal joined Kahfa at the shore. Jundal is an Indian, he said.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8160243.stm