The Frogman comes with his sea routes

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Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem
Illustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

The Lashkar-e-Toiba is closer to the Kashmir situation and its population than it is to Afghanistan. It can perform jihad better in Kashmir than Afghanistan. Over the years, the LeT has been able to achieve a reputation for it, which may not be easy to replicate in Afghanistan. Since Kashmir is the nearest to the LeT camps, they think it becomes imperative to liberate Kashmir. I understand the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) was under tremendous pressure to stop possible integration of the Kashmir-based jihadi groups with the Taliban-based outfits. It is always in the interest of the ISI to keep these two sets of outfits apart. However, the aggression and commitment to jihad shown by the many splinter groups in Afghanistan influenced many committed fighters into leaving Kashmir-centric outfits and joining the Taliban category of outfits. I understand this compelled the LeT to consider a spectacular terrorist strike in India. The ISI, I believe, had no ambiguity in understanding the necessity of a strike in India. It would serve three purposes: control further split in Kashmir-based outfits, provide them a sense of achievement and shift the violence from Pakistan to India.

I understand that this hastened the Mumbai attack project. Earlier, it was a limited plan to attack only the Taj in Mumbai with a couple of attackers like it used to happen in the past. But now it seemed to be a grand LeT plan to strike Mumbai at multiple locations with multiple attackers. So, this time Sajid told me to meet him in Rawalpindi instead of Muzaffarabad. I reached Pindi the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Abu Hamza came on a motorcycle to pick me up from the bus stand. This LeT has a safe house near Ayub Colony in Pindi. We had serious discussions on attacking the Taj. We also discussed Benazir’s assassination and its impact on the future of Pakistan. I recollect all of them praying that Benazir should not survive this attack. I met Abu Anas, Abu Hamza and Sajid in this Pindi house. I left Pindi a couple of days later to attend to personal issues. I believe during this time Zaki met a couple of LeT operatives who had escaped from India.

Around February 2008 I visited Pindi again on the request of Sajid. I took a taxi and reached Barakahu, where Sajid met me. This time he took me to a different safe house. I met Abu Anas and Abu Qahafa here. I was told Abu Anas was the in-charge of this safe house. I also met Abu Alaqama during my two-day stay here. Major Iqbal briefed me before I came to Pindi. He gave me a Sony Ericsson mobile phone with a camera and told me how to operate it. This phone is able to video-record continuously. In March 2008, Sajid and I reached Muzaffarabad. Qahafa received us and took us to Sajid’s house. There was a meeting at Zaki’s place. Initially, Sajid was not interested in taking me there but he changed his mind. Zaki, Muzzammil, Sajid and Qahafa were present. I met a clean-shaven person with a crew cut in his mid-thirties here. He was introduced to me as Abdur Rehman – The Frogman – and I was introduced to him as Abdul Qadir. I understand The Frogman was from the Pakistan navy. They discussed various landing options along the coast of Mumbai. Zaki wanted to figure out with The Frogman’s help how the attackers would be transported. A sea chart brought by The Frogman was discussed. Different landing options were discussed over a sea chart brought by The Frogman. There was a plan to drop the attackers about 60 to 70 km from Mumbai in order to avoid detection. But Zaki had reservations. The Frogman told them that the sea becomes rough after June. He said the planning would need to be completed before June.

On the second day of the meeting Abdur Rehman, The Frogman, told me to check the position of the naval vessels on the Indian side so as to avoid a gunfight before entering the Indian sea limits. After this meeting, I never saw The Frogman again. Zaki wanted me to explore entry into Mumbai through the Taj side. I stayed in this location for some more time during which time Sajid gave me a used GPS of the Garmin Company with a yellow cover. Sajid and Qahafa told me how to use it. I met Major Iqbal after my return from Muzaffarabad. He was already aware that the attackers were to be transported to Mumbai by sea. He discussed the possibility of using an Indian boat for this. He also suggested dumping a large quantity or arms and ammunition in India. Major Iqbal said the sea-route option comes only once in a while and should be fully utilised. He asked me to explore the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, especially its staff colony, as a target. He also gave me some counterfeit money for circulation and use in India. Sajid gave me Rs 40,000 Pakistani for this trip.

In my seventh visit to Mumbai, in April 2008, I reached Hotel Outram as my usual hostess had had a few issues with some of her paying guests. I met Abdullah in Hotel Outram. The same day I took a taxi and went to BARC, which I believe is one of the largest residential areas in Asia. I videographed this entire area and had dinner at the Indigo restaurant. I conducted four boat rides at different places for the reconnaissance of the landing sites. The same evening I took a boat ride from the Taj Apollo Bunder area. It was my first boat ride in Mumbai, a tourist boat, but I couldn’t see much as it had got dark. I bought the ticket in front of the Taj. On April 10, 2008, I took a second boat ride from the Marine Drive area at 8:30 pm. This ride too was not very useful. I chatted up one of the boatmen and took his address and telephone number.

The next day, April 11, 2008, I went to Cuffe Parade area, the place where the attackers finally landed. I found a number of fishermen there. I talked to a person who stays near a temple in that locality. He told me to come at 3 am the next day for a boat ride. I reached at the appointed hour and we went almost 6 km from the shore. I found this trip productive and I was convinced that this would be the right place for the landing. On April 14, 2008, I went to Cuffe Parade again and talked to the fisherman. I went to his house, which is located close to a small temple. He introduced me to a boy. I took his telephone number again and told him that a few college students would contact him on a possible visit to the place. I gave this fisherman’s number to Sajid. During my trip, I plotted the coordinates in the GPS. I took the next boat ride from the Worli area. I paid `2,000 for this ride. It was not very useful except that I caught some fish, which I then gave to my hostess, Mrs Kripalani.

Apart from the boat rides, I conducted reconnaissance of the VT railway station and a bus station near VT. I took videos of the Mumbai Central railway station as well. I returned to Pakistan in August 2008 and handed over the videos and the memory sticks to Major Iqbal, whom I met in Lahore. I handed over the BARC videos only to Major Iqbal. We discussed the egress points for the attackers and Major Iqbal suggested I set up a safe house in Mumbai. I went to Pindi to meet Sajid. He had undergone plastic surgery since the time I last met him. I met Sajid and then Zaki in the evening; Zaki came in his Toyota. The sense of urgency I saw in them before going to Mumbai was missing now. However, Zaki said he could see it happening. I did not say anything about BARC to them. Qahafa plotted the travel path on his laptop from the GPS locations that I had plotted.

I discussed my reconnaissance activities with Dr Rana. He told me that a bilateral agreement exists between India and Pakistan saying they wouldn’t use force on each other’s nuclear installations. He said this when I mentioned my surveillance of BARC. During this period I was in touch with Sajid through emails. Sajid wanted some books on Mossad and Major Iqbal requested for a pen fitted with a spy cam. I used to get mails from Rajaram Rege during this period. I returned to Pakistan in June 2008 and met Abdur Rehman Hashim. I was getting frustrated as nothing concrete in terms of action was taking place in the LeT. Rehman gave me some books to read, including Abdul Azim’s Imam ke baad. This book really influenced me; Azim is considered the father of modern jihad.

After some days, Sajid, Qahafa, Abu Anas and I discussed the targets again. We did not discuss Chabad House in this meet. It was decided that we would use the sea route to reach Mumbai around September 2008. Sajid stressed on the egress route for the attackers. He directed me to take stock of train timings at the VT station for the egress of the attackers. I informed Major Iqbal about Sajid’s plan. In the third week of June 2008, Sajid again contacted me. I was given to understand that I had to go soon to Mumbai. Some more targets were also discussed like the Taj President, the World Trade Centre. The Naval Air Station, the Siddhivinayak temple, Chabad House, Maharashtra Police HQ, the state assembly building, the EI Al Airlines office, Bombay Stock Exchange, Radio Club, etc. This was the first time Chabad House was discussed. I met Zaki as well. Sajid had convinced Zaki about the landing sites.

I was impressed to know that Chabad House had been listed as a target. Sajid, as I understand, is a Saudi salafi. They consider the Jewish people as the number one target. Abdur Rehman Hashim expressed satisfaction when I told him Chabad House was a target. He told me to stress that the LeT must target Chabad House. Abu Qahafa gave me the same GPS to use during this trip. Sajid was very particular about the egress of the attackers. They planned that the attackers should be able to take a North India-bound train or bus so they could reach Kashmir and remain there. Later, Major Iqbal too emphasised the egress option for the attackers. He was extremely happy to know that Chabad house had been chosen as a target. Major Iqbal told me to shut the office in Mumbai and explore an office in New Delhi. I believe Major Iqbal had talked to Dr Rana on this. Dr Rana too told me to close the office in Mumbai. I discussed the whole plan with Abdur Rehman before my departure. He too was particular about Chabad House as a target. I told my brother Hamza and my uncle Saulat Rana about my visits to India. They knew I was working with the ISI.

In July 2008, I returned to Mumbai for my eighth trip. I finished my recce of the Taj, the Naval Air Station, the police headquarters, the assembly building, the El Al Airlines office, Siddhivinayak temple, Chabad House, Bombay Stock Exchange and so on. I also covered the Blue Synagogue, the CBI office at Tanna House, Leopold Restaurant, Colaba police station, Delhi Durbar restaurant, the Israeli Consulate, DN Road and Trident Hotel. I had not gone inside the Blue Synagogue. I purchased wristbands for the attackers from the Siddhivinayak temple during this trip. I recced the VT railway station and the bus stand to plot the exact egress plans for the attackers. I revisited Cuffe Parade to assess the landing sites. I did not take a boat ride on this occasion; I tried to assess these targets from the perspective of where our strongholds would be. I plotted all these locations on the GPS given by Sajid.

I also went to Pune for a day during this trip and bought a gown from the Osho Ashram. Back in Mumbai, I bought two memory sticks from a shop near Hotel Outram. Major Iqbal tried to contact me on mobile phone towards the end of July 2008. Eventually, he talked to Dr Rana in the US. Dr Rana used to refer to Major Iqbal as Bala. Major Iqbal used to call from a number with a 646 area code (NY City). I had received a call from this number while I was in Pakistan. During my India visit too, I received a call from Major Iqbal from this number.

Adapted from the National Intelligence Agency report on David Headley’s interrogation

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