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26/11: Al Qaeda's brain and Lashkar's execution

November 26, 2012 10:50 IST
Cama Hospital and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus were never part of the original 26/11 terror attack plan drawn out by the Al Qaeda. It was only when the ISI decided to hand over the plan to the anti-India Lashkar-e-Tayiba that the Mumbai attacks became bloodier. Vicky Nanjappa reports

Was the 26/11 terror attack plot hijacked from the Al Qaeda and handed over to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba? Well that's the theory doing the rounds in Pakistan.

Reports from Pakistan a year after the attack suggested that it was Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of the 313 brigade of the Al Qaeda, who first planned the attack. Later the Inter Services Intelligence, Pkaistan's spy agency, hijacked the plan and handed over the operation to the Lashkar.

While the Indian agencies did not read too much into it and focused more on establishing a Lashkar-ISI link to the attack, today the theory of the attack being hijacked has been deciphered to a large extent.

Officials part of the Intelligence and Research and Analysis Wing point out that be it Ilyas Kashmiri or LeT founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, they are all strategic assets of the ISI. It is impossible that either a Saeed or a Kashmiri could act on their own. None of these outfits -- especially when carrying out an attack on either India, or United States of America or Israel -- would act on their own.

The ISI is basically the controlling agency and when they feel the need for an attack they ask any one outfit to chalk out a plan.

In this case, the ISI was witnessing a great deal of disgruntlement among the cadres of the Lashkar who wanted to fight alongside the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The ISI did not wish to permit this at any cost. Hence they told their best fighter, Kashmiri to draw out a plan.

Once the plan was drawn out, the same went back to the controller and the entire operation was explained. However, when Kashmiri drew out the plan, he had planned on targeting only the Taj and Trident hotels and sought assistance on logistics regarding places where there were Israelis.

Cama Hospital or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus were never part of the original plan drawn out by the Al Qaeda.

However, once the plan was handed over to the controller, a core team was drawn out and the ISI decided that the attack would be carried out by the Lashkar, since its only interest was India and it would do the cadres a world of good to have such a major attack to their credit.

It was from here that the actual operational planning commenced and men were appointed to draw out logistics and other details. It is the controller who also decides the number of men who would be involved in this operation and also how much would be spent on the operation.

Once these minor details were worked out, the major planning commenced. From here fresh modules were activated and each one was told what was to be done only on a need to know basis. The basic instruction was to do what was told and nothing additional since they did not want any major failure.

Once the logistics were set, the navy and the army were roped in and then the other part of the planning commenced which involved networking, on sea directions. This was the part where the establishment was roped in as none of the outfits in Pakistan have the capabilities to carry out such an operation involving on sea operations and major networking.

An officer pointed out that this is exactly the pattern that was used in Kashmir as well. It was always the Hizbul Mujahideen, which was told to draw out a plan and asked to activate their local modules. They then go back to their controller and it is he who decides who would take responsibility for the attack.

IB officials say that for the ISI an attack of this magnitude, which involved warfare to the fiercest extent, had to be planned by their best asset.

To say that this entire plan was single-handedly drawn out by Kashmiri and then hijacked by the ISI is wrong. For starters, Kashmiri is part of the Al Qaeda. Their war is against the West and he would have never thought about targeting people at a railways station, which hardly comprises any member of the Western community. Had they landed directly at the Taj and Trident hotels and Nariman House, then it could have been said that it was entirely an Al Qaeda operation.

This is, however, for the first time that the ISI ensured that the name of the original planner came out in the open. It is the ISI, which decides which outfit takes credit for any attack. However, when things started to heat up for the Lashkar, the ISI decided to leak out information regarding the Ilyas Kashmiri angle as they wanted to US to stay away from the Lashkar. However, it was a plan that did not work and the eyes of the world were fixed on the Lashkar only.
Vicky Nanjappa