The chief plotter behind 26/11 attacks Sajid Mir not only spent time in the country, he also has loads of data on Indian targets courtesy David Headley, reports Vicky Nanjappa
He continues to roam free and that is bad news for India.
Sajid Mir, chief plotter of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, continues to throw open a lot of questions and a lot of confusion still prevails regarding him. Indian agencies who term him as the biggest threat to India's security say he is extremely well connected with the Pakistan establishment but did not hold a rank in the army as was being speculated.
Indian investigators say it was Mir who laid the ground work for the attack on India. There is a report by Indian intelligence agencies which suggests that he had travelled to India as a cricket fan and used this opportunity to identify several targets which were later scouted by Headley.
The confusion regarding Sajid Mir commences with his name. While investigators from the United States identify him as Sajid Mir, the Indian dossier on this man refers to him as Sajid Majid.
The 26/11 attacks may be more than two years old, but the investigations continue almost 24x7 since there appear to be a lot of unanswered questions regarding it. While the National Investigation Agency and the Intelligence Bureau have managed to get a clear picture on the manner in which the attack was carried out, there still is confusion regarding the operation of David Headley, the role played by Major Iqbal and, more importantly, Sajid Mir.
What the Indian intelligence agencies have managed to ascertain so far is that his was the voice which ordered the killings at the Chabad House in Mumbai. They have also managed to find out through the conversation that he had attempted a hostage swap that had failed.
The question as to who Mir is, continues to haunt the Indian investigating agencies. However, a source in IB told rediff.com that although he was well connected with the Pakistani establishment, he was never part of the army as had been claimed by various investigating agencies.
Mir, according to the Indian dossier, is a global operator and has even been convicted in absentia by a French court. He never restricted himself to Pakistan and has travelled the globe extensively to set up bases for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which is evolving into a global outfit.
India has confronted Pakistan on various occasions regarding Mir, but the response was always on expected lines. Pakistan continues to deny the man's presence on its soil. The IB say this was expected, since any information on him from Pakistan would be suicidal for them.
His strong connections to the Pakistan establishment go back several years, when he was arrested in Dubai in with a group of men in connection with a plot. However, he managed to get out in no time, which only went on to show the strong connections he had within the system. That in fact was the last any one saw of Mir.
Mir's case is confusing not for India alone. Agencies across the globe who are probing his antecedents do not have anything concrete on him. The IB says the problem begins with his name, and "we are very sure that he has not been using his actual name which is why Pakistan is able to deny his existence. This man, who has been termed as ruthless as well as charming, goes by several aliases such as Abu Bara, Uncle Bill Ibrahim, Wassi and Sajid Bill."
His name had also cropped up in Headley's interrogation by the NIA in which he makes several references to Mir and going by what he has said, it became clear that Mir was the one who controlled most part of the terrorist operation, including Headley's tour of India.
The NIA says it will need go back to when Mir had come down as a cricket fan to find out more about his Indian sojourn. This part of the probe will be very crucial since it will help establish the Mir angle behind 26/11 with more certainty.
The reason why Mir decided to take the plunge himself and visit India was because with the Lashkar's withdrawal from Afghanistan, he noticed that its cadres had become completely demoralized and needed something spectacular to boost their morale. However, according to files in India, he did not stay too long in the country and was summoned back to Pakistan since the establishment over there thought it to be too risky to let him wander around in India.
It was only when Mir met with Headley that the 26/11 plan begin to crystallise. The rest is well known, and the investigation of Headley by both the NIA and Federal Bureau of Investigation makes it clear that Mir it was who controlled the operation.
Mir, according to the IB, is a blue-eyed boy of the Lashkar and his association with the dirty world of Islamic terror commenced when he was just 16. He looked up to Hafiz Saeed as a father figure and has been with him ever since. There was also a conflicting report that he had joined the army in Pakistan as a major. However, Indian agencies believe that he was and continues to be well connected with the ISI and could have been part of it. His association with the Pakistan armed forces has been very thick and continues to remain that way since the establishment across the border relies very heavily upon him.
Pro Publica, which reported extensively on Mir, highlights the confusion surrounding this man. It says the Interpol notice against Mir is mired in confusion. 'The Indian warrant identifies him as Sajid Majid, but most investigators still call him Sajid Mir, saying Majid may be his true name or one of several aliases. Interpol says his birthdate is January 1, 1978, which would make him 32. But Headley, his star operative, told Indian investigators Mir was born in 1976, according to a 119-page report on his interrogation in Chicago last year by India's National Investigation Agency. Most investigators think he is in his mid- to late-thirties,' Pro Publica states.
The Indian dossier goes on to state that his hatred for India was thanks to his father who was born in India. He was drilled with horror tales about Partition from a very young age, which prompted him to take up arms against India.
A testimony before the French Court which sentenced in absentia states that he joined the Lashkar when he was 16 and rose very quickly to head its Lahore unit. His knowledge of the world and the manner in which he could grasp things ensured that he was promoted as one of the chiefs of the Lashkar's foreign wing. His primary role was to pick foreign recruits so that they could undertake jihad globally. During his early stint with the Lashkar, he focused primarily on Canada, Qatar, Syria and Thailand and has also travelled to these countries.
The Headache for India: Today Mir is focused entirely on India and the manner in which he successfully carried out 26/11 has only made the ISI more determined to retain him. Mir may be lying low where India is concerned now since the heat is on him. However, it does not appear that the ISI will forego his expertise on India only because of this factor.
What makes Mir even more dangerous for India is that he has in his possession the tapes and information provided by Headley on targets in India which have not been attacked so far. There is a load of information that Mir has access to thanks to Headley, an investigating officer said. "This is always a dangerous situation for India, and from the 26/11 attack we know that Mir is capable of undertaking spectacular attacks and that too with a lot of precision."
The IB says a lot is at stake as long as Mir continues to be at large. He is very much in Pakistan since the ISI would not want him out of its sights, since he appears to be more important than any of the others in the Lashkar. They are aware that not only can he continue being a headache for India, but he is also on his way to setting up a global network which is of extreme importance both for the Lashkar as well as the ISI.