Years before the terror strike on Mumbai, top operatives of the Lashkar had started laying out the groundwork for their most ambitious and most destructive mission yet, says Vicky Nanjappa
Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Abu Jundal could have been one of the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Jundal, one of the main ‘handlers’ of 26/11 who was arrested from Saudi Arabia in April 2012, wanted to be part of the attack team. But he was stopped by his commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and asked to stay put in the ‘control room’ in Karachi that was supervising the terror strike, the ‘handler’ admitted during questioning.
Jundal alias Zabiuddin Ansari also told his interrogators that he had visited Aurangabad two years before the 26/11 attack, to participate in a meeting code-named Operation Snake.
There, he met fellow terror operatives Fayaz Kagzai and Himayat Baig, who were later convicted for their involvement in the German Bakery blasts in Pune.
Kagzai, who had been at Jundal’s side in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, was helping the letter strengthen the Indian Mujahideen.
Intelligence Bureau officials believe that at the time of the meeting, in 2006, the planning for the attack on Mumbai was already underway. LeT leaders had decided to make Jundal one of the key operatives in the terror strike.
Jundal’s dedication towards the cause of jihad soon earned him the trust of Lakhvi. He was sent to India by the LeT to supervise the operations of the Indian Mujahideen.
But the Mumbai terror attack was not on the agenda when Baig met Lakhvi. Instead, the duo discussed the IM’s Pune module which eventually carried out the German Bakery blasts.
Incidentally, LeT operative David Headley had conducted a reconnaissance of Pune at around the same time.
Jundal did bring up the Mumbai terror plan with his close aide Kagzai during Operation Snake, believe intelligence officials.
According to a Delhi police officer, though Jundal shared details about various terror camps held across India, he did not clearly state whether the Aurangabad camp had focused on the Mumbai terror strike.
Jundal left for Pakistan immediately after the Aurangabad meeting.
Though he was not part of the combat training team for terrorists, he worked as a teacher and taught Hindi to the attackers.
He also discussed the possible targets with Lakhvi at length and sought assistance from his local contacts in India.
But aware of the likely massive consequence of the attack, Jundal never outlined his exact terror plan to his Indian contacts.
Jundal got close to the ten terrorists he was tutoring and his proximity to them helped him nab the role of a ‘handler’ in the 26/11 ‘control room’. He could impart step by step instructions to them as he was well aware of the layout of the area under attack.
Jundal told his interrogators that though he would have preferred to take part in the actual attack, he was denied permission to do so.