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How 26/11 handler Abu Jundal was captured

Last updated on: April 02, 2014 14:55 IST

Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa -- in a five-part series -- reveals how the Intelligence Bureau and security agencies painstakingly tracked the Indian Mujahideen leadership.

Part I: How IM terrorist Tehsin Akhtar was arrested

Part II: How IM's bomb expert Waqas was caught

Part III: How Lashkar's discarded bomb maker was captured

Here is how Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, the Indian link in the 26/11 conspiracy, was nabbed after a painful 43-month chase

The voice intercepted inside the Karachi-based control room that orchestrated the bloodshed in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 had a distinct Indian accent.

Even as investigators realised that Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested during the carnage and who was later on sent to the gallows for his crimes, and the nine others who participated in the 26/11 attackes were foot soldiers control by their handlers in Karachi, the realisation about an Indian involvement had started sinking in.

A few months later, the Intelligence Bureau joined the dots and concluded that Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal was the man who handled the ten 26/11 terrorists.

Hailing from Beed district in Maharashtra, Jundal was on the run for alleged involvement in the February 2006 Ahmedabad railway station blast and the May 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case

The chase lasted 43 months.

For nearly three years since the 26/11 attack there was no word on the Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist's whereabouts.

Then in May 2012 a phone call -- made to a member of the Lashkar's Thane module in Maharashtra calling for fresh recruitments -- set alarm bells ringing.

The caller was Abu Jundal.

Calling from a location in Pakistan, Jundal said that he would be leaving for Saudi Arabia to oversee Indian Mujahideen operations in the kingdom.

Indian agencies swung into action. They knew they could not carry out an operation on foreign soil unless there was cooperation from that country.

They informed their counterparts in Saudi Arabia who assured them of help if they produced solid proof that Jundal was the man they were looking for.

The agencies collected DNA samples from his family in Beed in order to match the same when Jundal would be picked up. His family, however, denies that DNA samples were sought.

Jundal was picked up for questioning by the local police soon after arriving in Saudi Arabia on June 5, 2012.

Indian intelligence had to wait for over three weeks before they could get hold of Jundal.

The extradition was delayed after a team from Pakistan turned up to take Jundal into custody.

The Pakistanis asserted that Jundal was wanted in their country for acts of terror and hence he ought to be handed over to them.

Indian agencies felt Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence wanted to protect its asset and prevent Jundal from spilling the beans on the ISI's role in the 26/11 attacks.

Indian diplomats and their counterparts in Indian intelligence swung into action and convinced the Saudi authorities that Jundal was more important to India and that Pakistan had no case against him. They produced investigation details, DNA samples, dossiers, voice samples and intercepts.

On May 27, 2013, the Saudi authorities deported Jundal to India.

On his arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, he was formally arrested by the Delhi police, thus ending a painful 43-month chase for a man who was extremely important to the the 26/11 investigation.

Part V: How India's Most Wanted was trapped

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru