The fact that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence shows a lot of interest in the operations in India is no secret. Abu Jundal, who is now being questioned by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad has told his interrogators that two senior ISI officers are exclusively in charge of the Indian operatives of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Vicky Nanjappa reports.
He tells his interrogators that right from the recruitment to the operations stage there are always two high-ranking officers in charge of the Indian operatives. As Jundal rose in the ranks of the Lashkar as a powerful Indian operative, he had to report to two persons in the ISI -- Colonel Mohammad and Lt Colonel Asad.
However, investigators suspects these are fake names, since even the ISI would not give out their original names while dealing with operatives from India.
Jundal, who had already told the Delhi police that he was part of the control room which was managed by the ISI during the 2008 Mumbai 26/11 attack, has confessed the same to the ATS. Jundal says that these handlers from the ISI were with them at all times, and oversaw everything.
Even at the time of the 26/11 operation, Jundal being an Indian operative had to report to his ISI handler who passed on the information to his superiors. However, Jundal says that his handlers were not part of the control room and it was another set of ISI officers who handled the entire team.
Jundal said during his interrogation that while there are many Indians who are with the LeT, there are only a select few who have been chosen for covert operations. While he was one of them, the rest are Lal Baba, Abu Musab, Abu Sherjil and Abu Jarar.
While Musab hails from the Valley, the rest are all residents of Maharashtra. Barring Musab, the rest of the persons including Jundal left for Pakistan around the same time and were under the same handlers from the ISI.
The ISI is extremely cautious when it comes to Indian operatives. Although Indian operatives are valued by the ISI, they are also the most scrutinised.
Intelligence bureau officials who are also part of this probe since day 1, says that they would also focus on finding out LeT's international operations which could affect national security.
The Lashkar has been picking up operatives not only from India, but also from Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There have been signs of a Sri Lankan presence when Sheikh Abdul Khwaja alias Amjad, a Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami operative was picked up from there.
"We are aware that Jundal was in Saudi Arabia to further Lashkar's cause. He was in touch with people from Asian countries and we are looking into this aspect," said an Intelligence Bureau source. Sources say that they need to also find out more about the links Jundal had with another operative Muzzammil Bhat since he was in charge of India operations.
The IB feels that Jundal may have been working in coordination with Bhat since his plans were restricted to India. Hence, any plan regarding India had to be overseen by Bhat. Moreover, Bhat was also present in the control room at Karachi.
Jundal had already revealed to the Delhi police at the time of his arrest that his main job post 26/11 was to carry out a series of attacks in India. He had said that they had planned an attack at the Nashik police academy, since they believed that it was the Indians who carried out the attack on the Karachi police academy.
"We cannot say for sure that the Nashik operation is off the radar just because Jundal is in custody. He has not been too clear about this information, and only further probing will give us a better picture," said an ATS source.
Barring this, Jundal has not revealed anything new to the ATS. He has spoken about the control room in Karachi and also said that they had done their best to guard it as they feared that the Indians may attack the unit.
He also pointed out that the control room was destroyed following the operation as they did not want to leave a trace since it was located in a high profile area in Karachi, which is guarded by the military.
Jundal also pointed out that following the 26/11 attack, while there was a sense of jubilation in the Lashkar camp, there was also this foreboding feeling, since the attack had received a lot of attention across the world.
The Pakistani establishment feared of a counter strike and Jundal and group were asked to constantly change their bases. In order to cover the suspicion, the Pakistan establishment carried out a series of attacks on persons who were not really connected with the attack.
They did their best to safeguard the real persons involved in the attack as they had realised that even a single person was captured by an outside force, it could lead back directly to them.
There was a great deal of pressure to arrest LeT masterminds Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed. They were arrested, but it was more of a safeguard against any sort of international strike against them, Jundal told the police. Those arrested were kept in homes and were under the protection of the establishment, he also revealed.