Is Jundal the key to cracking 26/11?

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Abu Jundal’s arrest spells bad news for Pakistan as the focus shifts back to ISI’s role in the Mumbai attacks, says Brijesh Pandey

The local link Jundal tutored the terrorists who attacked Mumbai
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

ANOTHER JIGSAW has fallen into place in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks puzzle. In a major breakthrough, Indian intelligence agencies have got the custody of Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the key handlers of the 10 terrorists involved in the 2008 attacks. Jundal, who was in Saudi Arabia for the past couple of years, was arrested by the local police and deported to India.

Abu Jundal
Abu Jundal

Jundal was travelling on a valid Pakistan passport in the name of Riasat Ali and his arrest has once again put the spotlight on the nexus between Pakistan’s notorious spy agency ISI and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Jundal’s arrest also assumes significance in what is now emerging as a close coordination between the US and India in this terror case.

According to Delhi Police sources, Jundal has revealed to interrogators that he set up a control room near the Karachi international airport before the attacks. This was the same room from which six handlers controlled the 10 LeT terrorists via satellite phones to monitor the nearly 60-hour siege in Mumbai. While LeT commander Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi supervised the operation, Muzammil and Azam Cheema are the names of two other handlers that have emerged from investigations. Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested during the attacks, mentioned Jundal as the man who taught Hindi to the terrorists.

What stunned the world during the audacious attacks was the way the handlers were in touch with the terrorists all through the operation. During the attacks, Jundal was heard telling the terrorists to warn the Indians that the attacks were “just a trailer and the full movie was yet to unfold”. He was heard using typical Hindi words and urged the terrorists to conceal their Pakistani identities.

Jundal, who hails from Beed in central Maharashtra, worked as an electrician after passing out of the local Industrial Training Institute. He was a member of the Students Islamic Movement of India in the late 1990s before joining the LeT.

According to intelligence sources, Jundal was in charge of LeT’s operations in India. He was involved in the 2005 IISc terror attack in Bengaluru and a pipeline blast in Hyderabad. He narrowly escaped arrest during a 2006 operation in Aurangabad, in which 19 people were nabbed with 15 AK-47 rifles and several kilos of RDX. After this failed mission, Jundal fled to Pakistan.

In Jundal, the LeT found an excellent motivator and handler. He was crucial to LeT’s operations, carrying out indoctrination and executing terror attacks deep inside India. Intelligence agencies claim that Jundal’s arrest is a vital breakthrough in the 26/11 probe and the mystery behind the unknown voice recorded during the conversation between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan has been solved.

Meanwhile, Jundal’s arrest has raised several uncomfortable questions for Pakistan. B Raman, former chief of R&AW’s counter-terrorism division, tweeted that on 12 February 2009, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik had announced the arrest of one Abu Hamza and six others in connection with the 26/11 case. If he is the same man that the Delhi Police have arrested, then how did he manage to flee to Saudi Arabia? Was he then, along with the six others, quietly released by the ISI?

Jundal, who has been on the radar of intelligence agencies for the past year, was allegedly sent to Saudi Arabia to tap the Indian diaspora for recruitment and funding for a possible terror attack in the future. Though Indian agencies were in touch with the Saudi Arabian authorities, it was only when the Saudi Arabians were convinced of Jundal’s Indian identity that they allowed him to be deported.

Brijesh Pandey is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka. 
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