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Accounting for the bombs the terrorists carried

March 20, 2009
At around 9.30 am a police motorcade carrying Kasab turned into the police headquarters. A posse of two dozen policemen armed with assault rifles escorted Kasab into the crime branch interrogation room. Maria was waiting for him.

Though he had been told Kasab was not more than twenty-one years old, he expected a tougher guy, at least in looks. Maria had imagined a withered and rugged appearance. Not a baby-faced, smooth-skinned, blushing jihadi. Kasab, the fidayeen, looked like a kid. With the beck of his finger Maria signalled Kasab to sit on the ground. Leaning forward, his six-feet-one-inch frame towering over Kasab, Maria said, 'There is no point in hiding things. We know how to wrench the truth out of you. And you don't think I or anybody here gives a damn about your injuries. So you better start singing now.'

'Sahab, I have already told you that I am a Pakistani and I joined the LeT one and a half years back. As far as other things are concerned I have explained everything to your guys,' said Kasab, sighing and groaning, exhibiting fatigue and pain.

'I don't care for your pain. You look in my eyes and tell me how many of you have landed in Mumbai,' growled Maria.

'We were just ten of us. We came by sea and then split into five teams. Ismail and I were part of one team. The other four teams went to the Taj, the Oberoi and the Chabad House. Abu Rehman Bada, Abu Ali, Abu Soheb and Abu Umer had been assigned the job of the Taj. Abu Rehman Chhota and Abu Fahad were given the task of storming the Oberoi. And Abu Aakasha and Abu Umar had gone to the Chabad House,' Kasab confirmed. He also gave the physical characteristics of each terrorist and a description of their clothes.

'Where are your local logistics providers? Did you get in touch with anyone after reaching Mumbai?' Maria just could not believe that the ten had pulled off an attack of this magnitude without local support.

'No. We did not know anyone in Mumbai. We had no names or numbers. We were just told about our targets. Once we landed, we took taxis and went straight to our targets.'

'What time did you land?'

'Can't tell exactly. But it was somewhere around 8.15-8.30 pm.'

'Then why did the attack at the CST begin at 9.40 pm, an hour after you landed?'

'After landing we had a chat among ourselves. We decided that since we all had to reach different locations and we might get traffic on our way, we would begin the attack only after 9.40 pm. We were sure that all of us would reach our respective targets within an hour and so that was the time decided to begin the attack. Ismail and I had to wait for ten to fifteen minutes before we got a taxi. Ismail and I were the first ones to catch ones, the others were still waiting for the cabs when we left. We got off at the station after which I went to a toilet there while Ismail waited outside. I wanted to pee real bad. Then I came out and waited another few minutes. After my watch showed 9.40 pm we removed our guns from the bags and opened fire.'

'What were the arms and ammunition you all were carrying?'

'We had one AK-47, one pistol, two magazines for the pistol, six to eight magazines of AK-47 and ten to twelve hand grenades on each of us. Besides, we had a lot of loose cartridges of AK which we did not count,' said Kasab. He had earlier told Ghadge that each had eight hand grenades and had made no mention of the loose cartridges. To Maria, however, he gave a higher figure for the ammunition.

Twice Maria posed the question differently but Kasab gave the same figure: one AK-47, one pistol, ten to twelve hand grenades, and six to eight magazines.

'Don't you think you are forgetting something here?' Maria narrowed his eyes, moving his face closer to Kasab's.

For a few moments Kasab just stared listlessly into Maria's eyes, his face so close to Maria's that he could not look elsewhere. And then he said, 'Sorry, I forgot to mention it. We brought bombs as well. Each of us had one bomb, which we carried in a separate bag. We wanted to plant these bombs on the periphery of our targets so that when the police arrive they would get killed by the explosion.'

Maria finally had a figure on the total number of bombs that had entered the city the previous night. His mind started calculating.

Seven bombs had already exploded -- one each in two taxis, one on the sixth floor at the Taj, one outside the Trident hotel, one inside the Oberoi, one at a petrol pump near Chabad House and one on the staircase of Chabad House. Two had been defused -- one on the promenade facing the Gateway and one in a bylane on the back side of the Taj. But there was still one bomb left. Where was the tenth bomb? Maria's head started reeling.

'Where is the bomb that you were carrying?'

'I had put it in the cab we took for VT station, under the seat of the driver. Ismail sat next to the driver while I sat at the back. On our way I connected the wires, set the timer and pushed it under the seat.'

The riddle of two bomb explosions -- one at Vile Parle and the other at Wadi Bunder -- on 26 November was slowly unravelling. Laxminarayan Goyal from Hyderabad who had come to Mumbai on business took the same taxi from CST. At around 10.35 pm, when his taxi reached Vile Parle, the bomb placed by Kasab went off, killing both Goyal and the taxi driver. When the police reached the spot they found just a few rods of the engine section left of the taxi. The taxi driver had just jumped a traffic signal. Had he, like other vehicles, waited for the signal to turn green, the death toll would have been much higher. Around the same time another bomb placed in another taxi had blasted at Nal Bazar in Wadi Bunder, killing a woman passenger and the taxi driver.

'If you wanted to kill policemen why did you place the bomb in the taxi?'

'We thought that taxis would only move around in South Mumbai and their explosions would kill the approaching policemen.'

'Where did Ismail leave his bomb?' Maria asked, as that was the only one unaccounted for.

'He left it at VT station. I don't know where exactly he left the bag but it was somewhere at the station.'

But the bomb had not exploded. It was finally recovered six days later, on the evening of 3 December, when railway personnel were sorting out the 150-odd bags left behind by the dead, the injured and other passengers who had been caught in Ismail's and Kasab's line of fire. All the bags had been dumped by the railway police in a parcel room on the first floor of the CST. After Kasab's revelation the Mumbai police tried to locate the black and white bag as described by him but they could not find it. Luckily, the timer of the bomb had malfunctioned and it had not caused further damage.

Image: The Mumbai police at the site where Kasab was arrested on the night of 26/11.
Photograph: Uttam Ghosh

Also see:
ISI raises Rs 1,800 crores for terror: IB
Video: The blast in a taxi

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