This input was in conjunction with other inputs that Indian intelligence had received from various other sources. For instance, Riyasuddin, the son of Maulana Nasiruddin, who was under arrest for his alleged involvement in the assassination of the then Gujarat home minister Naren Pandya, had stated in his statements to the police that a sea-borne attack was being planned by certain terrorist groups abroad for an attack on Mumbai.
Similarly other vague inputs had also come in from Uttar Pradesh as well as other sources. But by September 24, Indian intelligence picked up several specific inputs. These were:
- An LeT module was being trained in a camp around Karachi for launching
attacks from the sea for at least three months
- Yusuf Muzammil, the chief of operations of the LeT was in contact with
an LeT operative stationed in Bangladesh (identified as "Yayah") who
was being asked to procure international SIM cards for an operation
that had been planned
- Information was also available that the team had been trained by Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, also known as "Chacha" an ageing ideologue who conducted most of the LeT's training modules.
On November 18, R&AW passed on a specific advisory to the Coast Guard, which serves as the Lead intelligence Agency for the coastal area. The advisory asked the coast guard to intensify patrolling and look out for a suspicious vessel, probably of Pakistani origin, which had sailed off from Karachi. While the coast guard began to patrol the area with renewed intensity, the terrorists had an entirely different plan.
According to details available with Indian intelligence and the information given by the terrorist who was picked up by the Mumbai police in an encounter near Chowpatty, the terrorists hijacked an Indian fishing boat, the Kuber, somewhere near Pakistani waters. They beheaded the majority of the boat's crew of six and only allowed one crew-member, Amarsinh Solanki, to live so that he could help them with navigating the boat to Mumbai. The coast guard found a Global Positioning System abandoned on the fishing trawler that was drifting nearly four nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai early on Thursday, November 27 morning, several hours after the terrorist attack began. While the coast guard was looking for a Pakistani or unidentified vessel, the Kuber (registration number 2303) blended in with the thousands of registered Indian fishing vessels out at sea.
This enabled the terrorists to avoid detection and slip into Badhwar park in Cuffe Parade in Mumbai before they began their operations. Most of them got into waiting boats that had been arranged by Karachi-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's diesel smuggling network in Mumbai. Arms, ammunition and plastic explosives were quickly transferred to the waiting boats that took the terrorists to the Gateway of India which was the pre-arranged launching pad for the terrorist attack.
What has surprised investigators piecing together the details of the attack is that the GPS recovered from the abandoned trawler, Kuber, had two maps fed into it to aid navigation. One was a route from Karachi that was plotted quite close to the Indian coast, while a return route had also been mapped into the GPS from the Mumbai coast back to Karachi. "We think this was done to give the terrorists some semblance of hope that they would go back home after a successful raid," a top security official told Outlook. The fact that these two maps were fed into the GPS has confirmed that there was some help from people with a naval or army background, and had extensive knowledge of navigation at sea.
Arrested terrorist Azmal Amir Qasab
What security officials have also confirmed is the fact that most of the
terrorists were from Punjab in Pakistan. The arrested terrorist, Azmal Amir
Qasab, a resident of Chippalpura Taluka in Ukkad Zilla, Punjab, Pakistan has
told his interrogators that the terrorists had trained for over two months,
much of it on the Karachi coast for the naval leg. They were
trained in basic rudiments of conducting naval commando raids, given
extensive biefings on the layout of South Mumbai with adequate footage for
familiarity and CDs of alleged "atrocities" carried out against
Muslims in India. Qasab has also given details of how two of their
operatives checked into the Taj Hotel last Saturday, November 22, with
a lot of equipment. The duo received several visitors with huge bags,
apparently carrying RDX for the two IEDs which were defused by the Mumbai
police on the night of the first attack.
Meanwhile, investigators are poring through the call data details downloaded from the satellite phone also recovered from the abandoned trawler. Many of the call details have revealed numbers that have been traced back to the LeT's chief of operations, Muzamil, as well as to Lakhvi. Interestingly, the international SIM cards recovered from the bodies of the killed terrorists correspond to the intelligence picked up earlier, when Muzamil had asked his Bangladesh operative Yayah, to procure them. He apparently also procured the fake Mauritian identity card recovered by the marine commandos.
In the days to come investigators will have to continue putting the pieces of the puzzle together to create a more comprehensive picture of the attack. Hidden among them will be key lessons on how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine