Photographs: Reuters Vicky Nanjappa
It has been almost three years since the horrific 26/11 attacks shook Mumbai and the country. Although the entire plot has become more or less clear today, there still remain some mysteries surrounding this case. The most important of them all is a man called Sajid Mir, reports Vicky Nanjappa.
Although several theories regarding Sajid Mir have come up in the past, there is not a single agency, barring Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence, which can tell definitively as to who exactly this man is. The National Investigating Agency is yet to file its chargesheet in this case, and if one looks at the case as a whole, Sajid Mir is a very important person in this entire plot.
There are contrasting reports regarding Mir. Some officials say that he is still in Pakistan under the shelter of the ISI while others say that he could have been picked up by the American Central Intelligence Agency already.
According to Indian agencies, the case of Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley will never come out in the open fully since he was an agent of the US who turned rogue.
Pakistan has done a lot to shelter Mir
Now these are aspects well known to Mir and if he is brought into the public glare, then the information that he could reveal could be extremely embarrassing.
Pakistan has done a lot to shelter Mir and have at times put out fake identities of the man; and today they claim that the only Mir that they know of is a cleric in Pakistan and has nothing to do with the 26/11 plot.
However, the recent statements by Jean-Louis Bruguiere, one of France's most powerful investigative judges, to Sabastin Rotella of Pro Publica makes it clear that Mir is not a fictitious character.
During his questioning of Willie Brigitte, a French LeT operative, Bruguiere was told that Mir was not only a member of the terror group, but also an ISI agent.
The French court had even convicted Mir, but that did not deter him from orchestrating the 26/11 attacks over phone from Pakistan exactly a year later.
The NIA's charge-sheet regarding Mir will be more on the testimonies given before the French court and also the ones that have been made out by David Headley.
Headley's ploy to avoid embarrassment for Pak?
Headley too speaks about the role played by Mir and says that he was his handler who guided him all through the operation.
However, Headley stops short of any further description of Mir and Indian agencies believe this is a deliberate ploy in order to avoid any sort of embarrassment.
Mir's luck with the police has been exceptionally good. He was convicted in France, but there was no action taken against him. Prior to this he was even arrested in Dubai, but had mysteriously managed to get away.
The Indian agencies point out that this was done at the behest of the ISI. India further points out that losing Mir will be a big loss for the ISI since he is considered to be a global terrorist capable of staging operations anywhere in the world.
Mir was part of the ISI and then roped into the Lashkar to carry out a global operation. He has been doing so since the past eight years now and his talents will continue to be used in global operations.
He not only specialises in arranging for operatives such as Willie Briggite and David Headley, but has managed to travel the globe arranging for operatives with much ease.
'Mir came to India as a cricket fan prior to the 26/11 attacks'
It was evident when he came to India as a cricket fan prior to the 26/11 attacks. This visit helped him set the ball rolling for one of the most horrific attacks of all times.
For India, the Mir angle will continue to remain a mystery. They did try their luck at securing information about him through Headley. The next attempt would be made if at all they get access to Pakistani-Canadian terror accused Tawwahur Rana.
Several attempts to get more information from both the US and Pakistan have failed, and hence in the charge-sheet and also the trial, he would always remain an absconder who stage managed the 26/11 attacks.
NIA sources say that there is plenty of information regarding Mir, but all that is on paper. The only country capable of giving out more information is Pakistan, but they deny that he even exists.
Mir, according to the Intelligence Bureau sources, may not be in Pakistan today. They have shifted his base several times in the past three years. He has been sent to Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Dubai in the past couple of years.
The threat world faces because of Sajid Mir
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
While not getting through to a man like Mir would be a setback for Indian investigators, the bigger problem is what the rest of the world faces due to him.
It has been spoken in length that this man is one of the deadliest global terrorists and could have passed on all information to the ISI and the Lashkar.
He is well connected in France, United Kingdom, India, USA and all the Gulf countries. Over the years he has picked and chosen operatives who are capable of carrying out 26/11-type operations.
What Indian agencies believe is that if a man like Mir is allowed to get away scot free, it only invites more trouble. The 26/11 attacks were staged after his conviction in France and this is the incident from which the world has to learn from.