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Kasab's second grilling in the early hours of November 27

March 20, 2009
How did you reach Mumbai? I want to know each and everything that happened on the high seas. Take me through your entire sea journey. Don't cut the long story short.'

'All ten of us had been kept in isolation for the last three months in an LeT safe house in Azizabad, on the outskirts of Karachi. On 22 November, we woke up at the break of dawn and were taken to a creek area in a jeep with tinted glasses. At around 8 am we all got on to a boat that was waiting for us at the shore. After about forty minutes of sailing we spotted a larger boat called Al-Husseini which I was told belonged to Lakhvi chacha. There were seven LeT mujahids who were already on board. We were told that the arms and ammunition were already there on Al-Husseini. All of us were then escorted into a cabin in the basement where we spent the next thirty hours. We were told to shave and be ready. On the 23rd at around 3 pm, we felt a thud as if something had come and struck against our boat. An Indian fishing trawler had docked next to our boat. One mujahid came running to the basement and told us to hurry up. It was time to leave.

'When we went up we saw four Indian fishermen being hauled from their trawler on to our boat. We hopped on to the Indian trawler. The sailor of the trawler was still on board. Our bags containing arms and ammunition and ration for the journey were also transferred into the Indian boat. A rubber speedboat and a foot pump were also hauled on the Indian boat. We all hugged the Al-Husseini crew members and started our journey towards Mumbai. Ismail was our group leader and he assigned us on board duties. Nine of us including Ismail performed watch duties in two-hour shifts. Only Imran Babar was exempted from watch duties as he had to cook. We kept a log book to make entries of our work shifts.

'Finally on 26 November at around 4 pm Ismail told us we were now very close to Mumbai. We waited till it turned dark. At around 7 pm we inflated the rubber boat with the foot pump and transferred our bags on to the boat. After sailing for over an hour we reached the fishermen colony at Badhwar Park at around 8.15-8.30 pm.'

'How did the LeT crew members manage to intercept the Indian fishing trawler, Kasab?' Maria probed.

'Sahab, I don't know exactly. But from the snatches of conversation I overheard while crossing over to the Indian boat it appeared that the Al-Husseini crew members waved a broken engine belt towards the Indian boat and asked for help. As the Indian trawler docked next to us, they kidnapped four Indian crew members and transferred them to Al-Husseini.'

'Who sailed the Indian trawler to Mumbai?'

'Amar Sinh Solanki, the Indian sailor, Ismail and Abu Umer. The three of them sailed and navigated the boat to Mumbai.'

'Where is Amar Sinh Solanki?'

'Ismail and Shoaib killed Solanki just before we boarded the rubber boat. Once we spotted Mumbai from the high seas we waited in the waters for some time. As it grew darker Ismail called up somebody higher up in the LeT and told him that we were only 4 nautical miles off from Mumbai. Speaking in coded language Ismail asked what we should do with the Indian sailor. The LeT boss on the other end said, "Humne to chaar bakre kha liye hain, tum bhi apna bakra kha lo." It was the coded message to kill the sailor, Amar Sinh Solanki. Ismail and Shoaib killed him by slitting his throat and dumped his body in the engine room.'

Maria immediately relayed the important information to the Indian Coast Guard and requested them to look for the Indian fishing trawler.

'Tell me how Ismail knew he was just 4 nautical miles off Mumbai. What navigation tools was he using?' Maria resumed the interrogation.

'We used a GPS to navigate. We were all trained to operate the GPS. But throughout the journey it was Ismail who operated it and he also spoke to the LeT bosses on his satellite phone.'

'Where are the GPS and the sat phone you used on the seas?' Maria enquired.

'I was the safe keeper of the sat phone and the GPS. But as we were lowering the dinghy into the waters another fishing boat came very close to us. We got scared and thought it might be the Indian Navy. Quickly, we loaded our bags on the boat and set off towards Mumbai. In the hurry I forgot Ismail's sat phone and GPS behind on the Indian trawler. Halfway into the journey Ismail suddenly remembered the sat phone and the GPS. We deliberated if we should go back to fetch it but then decided against it and kept sailing towards Mumbai.'

Halting the interrogation, Maria again left room to update the Coast Guard about the new information.

'Kasab. Tell me everything you know about the LeT,' said Maria on entering the room.

'Sahab, I don't know much. I joined it only a year and a half back. My father pushed me into this.'

'Look Kasab,' Maria interrupted Kasab before he could go into a spell of self-pity. 'We have had enough of your bleeding heart stories. You have been telling my officers that your father pushed you into this. That you were very poor. That you did not have enough to eat. That you did this just for money. You better stop bluffing now. Because we have arrested a few of your colleagues and they have told us everything, about you, the LeT, your training,' said Maria rubbing his forearms and then puffed his chest with a deep breath.

Two of Maria's detection officers pulled up stools lying in a corner and placing them close to Kasab, encircled him.

'I know everything. But I want to hear it from your mouth,' said Maria, his eyes glinting, a know-all smile playing on his lips. 'I don't like lies, Kasab.' Maria's face suddenly stiffened, the smile disappeared, and his broad jaw tightened up.

For a few seconds Kasab kept staring at Maria. Ghadge had never questioned Kasab's tearjerker narrative. But Maria would have none of it. And now he had some of his colleagues in custody too. Who could it be? Kasab wondered.

Image: Firemen fight the blaze at the Taj Mahal hotel
Photograph: Arun Patil

Also see:
'Three armed men in black': A survivor's account
Video: Taj burns

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