Thursday, November 22, 2012

What's making the news today

The articles today discuss the execution yesterday of Ajmal Kasab – the only gunman to survive the Mumbai attacks of 2008. The first article is from “The Australian”, the last is from “The Independent” (UK) and the rest are from “The Times of India”

Masterminds sought as Mumbai gunman hanged

  • by: Amanda Hodge, South Asia correspondent
  • From: The Australian
  • November 22, 2012 12:00AM
Gunman Ajmal Kasab walks through the Chatrapathi Sivaji Terminal railway station in Mumbai, India. He was executed yesterday. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

INDIA has hanged the sole surviving Pakistani gunman responsible for the bloody three-day siege of Mumbai in which 166 people were murdered, five days before the fourth anniversary of the terror attack.

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 25, was executed yesterday in Pune's Yerwada jail and his body buried within the grounds of the prison, ending a two-year appeals process and a last-ditch plea for clemency.

His execution, two weeks after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition, also ends an informal moratorium on the death penalty in India, in place since the Congress-led government came to power in 2004.

But the issue is far from closed in India, with the execution prompting renewed calls for Pakistan to hand over the suspected masterminds of the attack.

Kasab's hanging remained a closely guarded secret until more than an hour after it took place at 7.30am. India's Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, said "it was important to maintain secrecy in this matter", adding that the family had been informed of his death by courier-delivered letter, as had the Pakistani Government.

Kasab was found guilty on more than 80 charges, including committing acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy to commit murder, and sentenced to death in 2010. His conviction and death sentence were upheld last year by the Bombay High Court and again in August by India's Supreme Court.

The young man from Pakistan's impoverished southern Punjab was among 10 gunmen who launched co-ordinated terror strikes on India's financial capital on November 26, 2008.

His guilt was never in doubt in India, where closed-circuit TV footage captured a gun-toting Kasab stalking victims at Mumbai's famous Chhatrapati Shivaji rail terminal and Cama Hospital. Together with a fellow gunman, Kasab was believed to be responsible for the deaths of 52 people. More than 300 were wounded in the attacks.

India continues to pressure Pakistan to hand over senior militants from the notorious Lashkar-e-Toiba, believed to have masterminded the strike and coached the terrorists by phone throughout the three-day ordeal.

Kasab's death was welcomed across India. "I have been pinching myself that this has finally happened," actor and survivor Amrita Raichand said. "This is a jubilant day for me that there is peace, there is closure and hope for our country. Some faith has been revived in the government."

But rights groups expressed disappointment and concern that it would lead to more state killings.

Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said she did not dispute that Kasab's crime fell within the "rarest of rare" category of crime, for which the death penalty is allowed, but said that "India should join the rising ranks of nations that have taken the death penalty from their legal frameworks".


Pakistan Taliban vow to attack Indian targets over Kasab

The writer has posted comments on this article

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Taliban movement threatened on Thursday to attack Indian targets to avenge the country's execution of Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the militant squad responsible for a rampage through Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008.

Kasab was hanged on Wednesday amid great secrecy, underscoring the political sensitivity of the November 26, 2008, massacre, which still casts a pall over relations between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India.

"We have decided to target Indians to avenge the killing of Ajmal Kasab," said Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Ehsan demanded that India return Kasab's body.

"If they don't return his body to us or his family we will capture Indians and will not return their bodies," he said, adding that the Taliban will try to strike Indian targets "anywhere".

The Taliban, who are close to al-Qaida, are seen as one of the biggest security threats in Pakistan and are blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country. They have not carried out major attacks abroad.

Kasab was charged with 86 offences, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, in a charge-sheet running to more than 11,000 pages.

It was the first time a capital sentence had been carried out in India since 2004. There was celebration on the streets of Mumbai and other cities as news of the execution spread, but militant groups in Pakistan reacted angrily, as did residents of his home village of Faridkot.

People set off fireworks and handed out sweets in Indian cities. Some held up photos of Kasab with a rope noose superimposed over his head.




Ajmal Kasab hanged: A puppet's life ends on a string

The writer has posted comments on this articlePrafulla Marapakwar & C Unnikrishnan

The lone surviving gunman of 26/11 was hanged to death in Pune's Yerawada jail at 7.30am on Wednesday in an extremely hush-hush operation, codenamed 'X'.

MUMBAI: Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab exited this world as stealthily as he had entered Mumbai four years ago. The lone surviving gunman of 26/11 was hanged to death in Pune's Yerawada jail at 7.30am on Wednesday in an extremely hush-hush operation.

Asked for his last wish, the 25-year-old terrorist from Faridkot village in Pakistan's Punjab province said: "Gharwalon ko milna hai (I want to meet my family members)."

He was told the Islamabad government had been informed about his hanging but had failed to respond. As his hands and legs were tied, his last words, according to officials who witnessed the hanging, were: "Allah kasam maaf karna. Aisi galati dobara nahi hogi...(Allah, please forgive me, this mistake won't happen again)."

Sources said Kasab was babbling incoherently before the hangman pulled the lever at Yerawada, about 150km from Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail, his home for four years. His body was buried in a pit in the prison premises as there were no claimants. He was convicted in May 2010 by a special judge for murdering seven people directly with his AK-47 and 65 others in common intent with fellow terrorist Ismail. He was also found guilty of being part of a Lashkar-e-Taiba conspiracy that led to 166 deaths. The Mumbai high court in February 2011 and the Supreme Court in August this year upheld the sentence.


Kasab hanging a secret, like 9 aides’ burial

The writer has posted comments on this articlePrafulla Marapakwar

MUMBAI: The hanging of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab on Wednesday was yet another secret security operation in response to the November 26, 2008, terror attacks.

Kasab was quietly shifted to Pune in the wee hours of Tuesday even as the entire security setup at Arthur Road Jail was kept intact. As a result, no one suspected that he had been moved.

In January 2010, the anti-terrorism squad led by Rakesh Maria quietly buried the bodies of the nine terrorists, close aides of Kasab who executed the 26/11 attacks, somewhere near Thane. The terrorists, all Pakistani nationals, had been killed by security forces.

All the nine bodies were kept in the J J Hospital morgue. A company of the state reserve police force had been deployed there. On several occasions, scribes had asked home minister R R Patil about the status of the bodies, whether they had been identified and would they be handed over to Pakistan. All along, Patil maintained the bodies had not been identified and there was no response from Pakistan. In fact, the ministry of external affairs had taken up the issue with its Pakistani counterpart. There was no communication from Pakistan, though.

Unexpectedly, in the first week of January 2010, Patil said that since there had been no claim, the nine bodies had been buried at an undisclosed destination. "Patil's strategy worked. The media was not able to find the location,'' a senior doctor told TOI.

The bodies were quietly shifted in the wee hours.

The anti-terrorism squad ensured that there was no change in the security setup as well as the doctors' visiting hours. "Since all was as usual, no one suspected that the bodies had been removed,'' the doctor further said.

Other than Maria, two senior officers were in the know of the burial plan, for which a dozen private labourers had been brought in from outside the city.

"These labourers were kept in the dark about the task ahead,'' a senior IPS officer said.




Execution of last surviving Mumbai terrorist celebrated

Joy in the streets as gunman Aimal Kasab is secretly hanged in an Indian prison

Four years after playing his part in carrying out the worst terrorist attack in Indian history, Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 assault on Mumbai, was secretly hanged in an Indian jail in Pune.

When authorities announced the execution of the Pakistani national it was met with celebration on the streets.

“All the police officers and personnel who lost their life in the battle against the terrorists have today been served justice,” said the Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, in Delhi.

In Pakistan, the secret hanging, codenamed “Operation X”, was seen as an attempt by the Indian government to prove itself tough on terrorism. India is waiting for Islamabad to bring to justice the Pakistani masterminds of the attacks.

The 2008 attacks, which killed 166 people remain a painful wound in the India-Pakistan relationship. During the siege, Kasab was famously photographed in Mumbai’s main railway terminus where he and an accomplice killed 52 people. He  was charged with 86 offences, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, and was sentenced to death in 2010.

During the 60-hour Mumbai siege, Kasab was famously photographed in Mumbai’s main railway terminus where he and an accomplice killed 52 people.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a spokesman for India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said the execution “sends out a strong message and warning to India’s enemies and to forces across the border that are running factories of terrorism”.

Meanwhile, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the jihadist group that sent Kasab and the nine other gunmen from Pakistan to Mumbai in late November 2008, called Kasab a “hero” and vowed to carry more attacks. “He will inspire other fighters to follow his path,” a commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba told Reuters.

The Mumbai strike brought India and Pakistan close to war, as India considered retaliation or at least surgical strikes on Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps inside Pakistan. Another major attack would shatter the subsequent halting peace talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Mr Shinde said it had been “important” that the execution be conducted in secret, but many criticised the move. “A transparent approach would have given... a clear warning to terrorist groups, and most important, confidence to the citizens that the state is capable of dispensing justice,” the India Against Corruption group said in a statement.

As a teenager, Kasab left his home in Faridkot, a poor village in the economically backward south of Punjab province – a known recruiting ground for jihadists preying on disillusioned young men with few prospects. He joined Lashkar-e-Taiba, a huge and well organised Pakistani jihadist group that is focused on India.

“This news is hell for us,” Kasab’s aunt, Shahnaz Sughra, said yesterday. “Even if he did something wrong, we just want his body... I am proud that he taught the enemy a lesson in their own country.”

Pakistan denied that Kasab was one of its own for months after the attack and even after a foreign journalist found his home in Faridkot. India produced dossier after dossier of “evidence” that Lashkar-e-Taiba has carried out the attack, prompting Pakistan to launch its own investigation.

Today, seven people in Pakistan are in jail and under trial, including Zaki- ur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and the operational commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, the supposed leader of the extremist group, Hafiz Saeed, remains free inside Pakistan, while Lakhvi reportedly continues to run his operations from inside the prison.

For India, the trial in Pakistan is proceeding far too slowly, while it also wants to see Hafiz Saeed behind bars – as does the United States, which has placed a $10m (£6.3m) bounty on his head and declared that his group has close ties to al-Qa’ida. Pakistan says there is no evidence against him.

What remains unclear is if there was, as India alleges, any official help or sanction given by Pakistan’s military or Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agencies for the Mumbai attack. The ISI had strong ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba in the past, but denies involvement in the attacks.

Survivors how they reacted

“It was around 9:45pm and I was about to shut shop. I was near my cash counter when all of a sudden I saw people throwing grenades. I saw a man coming towards me holding something long in his hand. After that I didn’t see anything...

“This [execution] is the best possible New Year gift one can get.”

 Mukesh Agrawal was shot in the stomach during Kasab’s attack on Mumbai’s
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station.

“Suddenly intense firing began, so we ran to the nearby Taj Hotel. There we saw blood everywhere and people dying, so we got out, and ran to the train station to go home, only to find people being killed there too... We lay down at the station pretending to be dead on the ground. Only two in our group of nine survived.”

Kaizad Bhamgara, who told the BBC he will celebrate Kasab’s execution with friends.

“Kasab’s death is a kind of closure that brings peace, after a lot of unrest in the city.

Now it’s time to move on... Forgiveness is a bridge to peace... It doesn’t mean I’m not outraged but I’m not going to spend my life in anger and resentment.”

Kia Scherr, whose husband and daughter were killed in the attack on the Oberoi hotel during the siege.

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