Friday, Dec 08, 2023

Pakistan To Interrogate 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks Mastermind

Pakistan To Interrogate 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks Mastermind

Sajid Majeed Mir, 43, a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group, was jailed for over 15 years in a terror-financing case by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore earlier this month as part of Pakistan’s bid to exit from the grey list of the FATF.

Police officers walk outside Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the sites of Mumbai terror attacks. File Photo-AP

Sajid Majeed Mir, one of the most wanted terrorists and the main handler of the 2008 Mumbai attacks who was once declared dead by Pakistan, will be interrogated by authorities in the country for his role in the deadly carnage, an official said on Thursday.

Mir, 43, a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group, was jailed for over 15 years in a terror-financing case by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Lahore earlier this month as part of Pakistan’s bid to exit from the grey list of the FATF.

"A Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team will interrogate Mir in Gujranwala jail for his alleged role in the Mumbai Attack case," a senior FIA officer associated with the probe of the 26/11 case, said.

He is imprisoned in the Central Jail Gujranwala, some 80 km from here.

Mir has been convicted in a separate terror financing case that has nothing to do with the Mumbai attack case.

The FIA official said Mir was earlier declared a proclaimed offender in this case.

"Mir, who allegedly had directed the attackers from Lahore during the siege in Mumbai, will also be quizzed for his links with Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and LeT operation commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and financing the attack," the official said.

The 26/11 case has been pending in the anti-terrorism courts in Rawalpindi/Islamabad since 2009.

Six arrested suspects -- Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed, and Younis Anjum -- are facing charges of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the Mumbai attacks and they are detained at the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi.

The case proceedings have virtually come to halt for the last many years.

The FIA said since India has refused to send its 24 witnesses to Pakistan for recording their statements and other evidence, the case cannot proceed further.

Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi are detained at Kot Lapkhapt jail in Lahore, serving a term of several years in terror financing cases registered in the Punjab province.

In November 2008, ten LeT terrorists had sailed into Mumbai from Karachi and carried out coordinated attacks, killing 166 people and injuring over 300.

Nine of the attackers were killed while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught and hanged after a trial.

Meanwhile, Mir's 15.5 years conviction in a terror-financing case registered in the Counter-Terrorism Department in Gujranwala has been made on three counts and the sentence will run concurrently.

According to the ATC order, a copy of which is available with PTI, Mir was sentenced to six months, seven years, and eight years respectively under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Interestingly, Pakistani authorities had earlier claimed that Mir had died, but Western countries remained unconvinced and demanded proof of his death.

This issue became a major sticking point in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s assessment of Pakistan’s progress on the action plan late last year. This was where things finally started moving in Mir’s case, leading to his arrest and prosecution.

Before the last meeting of the FATF, Pakistan reportedly told the Paris-based agency that it had arrested and prosecuted Mir in order to seek its removal from the FATF's ‘grey list'.

Lahore-born Mir is mostly known for his alleged role in planning and executing the Mumbai terror attacks. He reportedly spent two years carrying out reconnaissance and scouting targets in Mumbai.

He did this with the help of David Coleman Headley – an American terrorist, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence in the US for his involvement in international terrorism.

Mir’s association with Saeed dates back to 1994 when he was just 15. He then rose in the LeT's ranks and became associated with its international operations wing.

Mir reportedly remained the deputy chief of LeT’s international operations. He was also linked up with al-Qaeda while conducting international operations.

In 2005, he had secretly visited India with a fake passport. He posed himself as a cricket fan to watch a match between India and Pakistan. On that occasion, he remained in India for about 15 days.

According to reports, Mir’s name started featuring on the international terrorism landscape as early as 2002, when he attempted to make large military equipment purchases from the US with the help of his Virginia-based accomplices.

However, that project came to an end when the FBI arrested 11 people in what became to be known as the ‘Virginia Paintball Jihadi’ case. Ten of them were jailed.

He later turned towards Australia. In 2003, he planned attacks in Australia with the help of a French national, Willie Brigitte, and an Australian, Faheem Khalid Lodhi, for Australian troop presence in Afghanistan.

Mir then focussed on the Mumbai attacks. Later in 2009, Mir collaborated with Headley on an aborted plan to attack a newspaper office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Mir, who had a bounty of USD 5 million on his arrest, is on India's most-wanted list for his role in 26/11.

(With PTI inputs)