Even as the Mumbai crime branch, the Gujarat police, the National Investigation Agency and the anti-terrorism squads of Maharashtra and Gujarat have been vying for the custody of 26/11 plotter Abu Jundal, officials from the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau insist that he should not be handed over for at least three months.
Jundal has been in custody of the Delhi police's special cell since June 21.
The Union home ministry feels that Jundal should be interrogated in Delhi by the central agencies and if the police officials of other states need to interrogate him they should come down to the capital.
The Delhi court had last month rejected the Maharashtra ATS's request for Jundal's custody. The terror squad is keen to grill the 26/11 handler to finish their probe in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks case and to get more information about a man called Yakub, who controlled Al-Hussaini, the boat that ferried 10 terrorists to the city on that fateful night.
While Jundal has spoken about the 26/11 attacks, the control room in Karachi and terror camps in Pakistan, sources in the Indian investigating agencies believe that there is a lot of information he is still withholding.
What is Jundal hiding?
Investigators in New Delhi do not want to treat Jundal had an accused in the 26/11 case alone. He is no small operative and has a great deal of information.
"We need to know much more from him and the ongoing investigation is based on our intercepts about the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and its future operations," said an official from the Delhi police.
Jundal has refused to speak about Lashkar's local links. He has been mum about the Indian operatives who work for the terror outfit and its local modules. Also, he has provided sketchy details about Lashkar's future terror operations, pointed out sources.
The IB and the Delhi police are seeking to establish the exact links between the Lashkar and the Indian Mujahideen. He has said little about the IM and has never mentioned the Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, and Amir Reza Khan, a key operative of the group based in Pakistan.
The IB has intercepted infiltration of some Al Qaeda members into India. It is said that the Al Qaeda operatives would try and carry out a hit in India with the help of the Lashkar. However, Jundal has yet to reveal information regarding Qaeda's plans.
Investigators claim that they need a minimum of three more months before they could put the Jundal case into perspective. "As we pointed out earlier we are not treating him only as a 26/11 accused, but as a man with a pile load of information regarding Lashkar's India plans," said an investigation officer.
"Jundal is a seasoned operative and does believe that he can get away from on the basis of dodging questions. He is quite a difficult man to interrogate. We have been listening to him and want him to say all that he has to before we get down to the specifics," the officer added.
Jundal, however, portrayed himself as a victim. He said that Saudi Arabia was no longer a friendly country for Muslims and also pointed out that his deportation was wrong. He often abuses the Americans. As far as India goes, he blames the Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 Gujarat riots for infuriating Muslims here.
An investigating officer says that it is essential to let him speak his mind out. However, the next leg of the investigation would be specific. This would take a while and hence it would not be right for us to hand over the custody to any state police at the moment, he said.
The custody battle and LeT's Aslam Kashmiri
Officials from the Maharashtra ATS said that Jundal's custody was not an ego battle. "We have a right to interrogate the accused," said an ATS officer.
The ATS, which had earlier said it would bring suspected LeT operative Aslam Kashmiri to Maharashtra in connection with his alleged role in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case, said it would not seek his custody since he is not a "wanted accused in the case".
However, the fact is that they do not want to dilute their claim over Jundal by seeking the custody of Kashmiri.
Kashmiri was arrested on August 25, 2009, by the Delhi police's special cell.
During his interrogation, Kashmiri claimed said he underwent training in a Pakistani camp in 2007 and was sent by Jundal. But the ATS points out that they want Jundal to confess about Kashmiri's role. This would help us put the case in perspective and help us build on it, said the official.