On 26/11, they watched cricket

10 terrorists, 60 hours: Top cop pieces together events leading to the attacks

On 26/11, they watched cricket

 
The terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)’s boss Hafeez Saeed and operational commander Zaki-ur-Rehman were satisfied with the progress of a special batch of 10 terrorists who were to carry out the job, after months of tough training, which had made them robots for a bold suicide mission against India.

A school dropout and daily-wage labourer Ajmal Kasab, now 21, was among the recruits, who were promised lot of money for the mission. Kasab had joined the outfit in December 2007 and underwent training with nine others in firing almost all automatic weapons like AK 47, pistols, grenade launchers, mortars.

Training

This kind of training can be imparted not by a layman, but has to be by either a serving or a retired army man, says Joint Commissioner (Crime) of Police Rakesh Maria, who investigated the attacks. All terrorists were between 18-24 years. They were next given marine training off the coast of Karachi.

In between, LeT’s two Indian operators Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed had taken pictures and prepared maps of the targets in Mumbai - two five star hotels, the main railway terminus, a Jewish centre, and a cafe.

The 10 men were divided into five pairs, each given specific locations to target in South Mumbai. Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan, who was the overall team leader, were asked to target the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to cause maximum loss of life at this location which is the nation’s busiest railway terminus.

Babar and Nasir were to head to the Nariman House, owned by the Chabad of India Trust, an orthodox Jewish organisation. This was a deliberate plan to target American and Israeli Jews.

Abdul Rehman Chota and Fahadullah were told to attack the five-star Trident-Oberoi Hotel and target the nation’s social and corporate elite.  Abu Shoaib and Abu Umer were to attack Café Leopold, a popular joint with foreign tourists. This was done to ensure maximum foreign casualties. They were then to join Hafiz Arshad and Javed and together attack the grand old lady of Apollo-Bunder – Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel.

Journey to mayhem

At the dawn of November 23, Kasab and his nine associates boarded a small boat at Karachi port with no belongings. 25 nautical miles into the high seas they were moved to a bigger launch. And an hour later, an even bigger ship, the ‘al Huseini’ lay waiting for them.

Each was carrying a rucksack with AK-47 (on an average eight-10 magazines each), 7.65 mm pistol (two magazines each), a lot of loose rounds, hand grenades - between 10 to 12 and a lot of loose ammunition. They also carried dry fruits to sustain them during the voyage. The rucksack weighed anywhere between 15-20 kgs, Maria said.

After about four hours of sailing, the ‘al Huseini’ approached the Gujarat coast. All was quiet and normal till the crew noticed an Indian fishing trawler, the ‘MV Kuber’. After consulting their handlers over satellite phone the terrorists hijacked it.

Of the five Indian sailors on board the ‘Kuber’, four were forced onto the ‘al Husseni’ and instantly killed. Only Amarsingh Solanki, the Kuber’s navigator was kept alive. He was forced to navigate them upto Mumbai, about 580 nautical miles. After three days at sea, as they neared Mumbai, the terrorists beheaded Solanki and threw his body into the engine room.

They were carrying a rubber dinghy, which they inflated and trasferred all their belongings into it. They abandoned ‘Kuber’ and started sailing to the shore. It was late evening of Novermber 26, 2008.

In the congested shanties of the Machimaar Colony in Badhwar Park, South Mumbai there was much excitement over the cricket match between India and England and fishermen were watching it on the TV sets.

Meanwhile, an anonymous rubber dinghy with 10 men on board approached the unsuspecting fishing village. Eight men got off, each carrying a huge haversack. They divided themselves into four pairs and started to walk away. The dinghy with two men still on board moved away heading towards Nariman Point, close to the Hotel Oberoi. A few local fishermen actually noticed the terrorists, but did not suspect anything foul. Nobody knew at that time that within the next hour, India and Mumbai’s life would change forever.

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