The arrest of the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks, Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Hamza alias Abu Jundal, has sparked tensions between India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) over the question of who coordinates his arrest.
The electrician who went on to become one of the most wanted terrorists in India was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport – according to senior officials, the entire operation to track down Hamza was coordinated by the IB. Officials also say that Hamza arrived on a commercial flight and not on a special flight arranged by RAW.
Meanwhile, the IB has gotten to work on extracting as much information from the terrorist as possible on his role in the Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) network and the alleged involvement of Pakistani state actors in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed.
Investigators have elaborated that though Hamza has admitted that he had a role in the Mumbai attacks and acknowledged that he was constantly talking to terrorists during the attack, he has not volunteered information about the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“We have matched his voice sample from the recorded conversation during the Mumbai attack. Although he is talking about his role in giving Hindi lessons to terrorists and also identifying places in Mumbai, he is not ready to give information about the involvement of ISI in the attack,” said a senior officer. Investigators are also finding it difficult to get information on LeT sleeper cells present in India.
Senior officials elaborated that Ansari was a hardened terrorist whose main job was to identify and indoctrinate recruits.
Ansari also told investigators that he was initially given the code name Abu Hamza and it was later changed to Abu Jundal in 2008, because his LeT handlers didn’t want him to be identified during the investigations into the Mumbai attacks.
During the course of interrogation, Hamza also identified the people whose voice was recorded by intelligence agencies during the attack. Hamza told the investigators that around 8-10 people were present in a safe house in Karachi, which acted like a control room during the attack.
The wanted terrorist has also confessed that not all the ‘handlers’ were present at the control room at the same time.
Investigators believe that the terrorist mastermind joined the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) at the behest of a school senior after the 2002 riots in Gujarat. After completing the initial process of indoctrination, Hamza was sent to Kashmir for training in small arms.
Intelligence agencies had first found Hamza to be involved in suspicious activities during the investigation into an attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in 2005. Even though Hamza managed to avoid getting arrested, his name came up again when Mumbai police recovered weapons from Aurangabad in 2006.
Senior officials said that Ansari has also confessed to helping LeT recruits plant seven bombs in Mumbai in July 2007, which was the first major coordination between LeT and the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
Even though Ansari was wanted by several police organisations, he has managed to enter India twice between 2006 and 2007 through Bangladesh and Nepal.
Ajmal Kasab, also accused in the Mumbai attacks, had identified Hamza’s voice earlier in recorded conversations for investigators. Kasab told the investigators that Hamza was closely involved in the training. Hamza also taught Hindi to the 10 Pakistani nationals involved in the Mumbai attacks. The two Hindi classes took place just days before the attack. Hamza is a resident of Beed, in Maharashtra state.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.