Did Mumbai terrorists work through Bona-fide Indian Police Informers?
Was the Mumbai attack a contractual-terrorist operation?
By Amaresh Misra
A new revelation, which actually repeats a pattern seen before, casts its own shadow over the Mumbai terror attack.
A report, appearing on several Indian and International news agencies claims that, persons who probably brought SIM cards used by Mumbai terrorists could have been Police informers and people working for different Indian State Police or intelligence forces:
“One of the two Indian men arrested for illegally buying mobile phone cards used by the gunmen in the Mumbai attacks was a counterinsurgency police officer who may have been on an undercover mission”, security officials said Saturday, demanding his release.
The arrests, announced in the eastern city of Calcutta, were the first since the bloody siege ended. But what was touted as a rare success for India’s beleaguered law enforcement agencies, quickly turned sour as police in two Indian regions squared off against one another.
Senior police officers in Indian Kashmir, which has been at the heart of tensions between India and Pakistan, demanded the release of the officer, Mukhtar Ahmed, saying he was one of their own and had been involved in infiltrating Kashmiri militant groups. Indian authorities believe the banned Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has links to Kashmir, trained the gunmen and plotted the attacks that left 171 people dead after a three-day rampage through Mumbai that began Nov. 26.
The implications of Ahmed’s involvement – that Indian agents may have been in touch with the militants and perhaps supplied the SIM cards used in the attacks added to the growing list of questions over India’s ill-trained security forces, which are widely blamed for not thwarting the attacks.
Earlier Saturday, Calcutta police announced the arrests of Ahmed and Tauseef Rahman, who allegedly bought SIM cards by using fake documents, including identification cards of dead people. The cards allow users switch their cellular service to phones other than their own.
Rahman, of West Bengal state, later sold them to Ahmed, said Rajeev Kumar a senior Calcutta police officer.
Both men were arrested Friday and charged with fraud and criminal conspiracy, Kumar said, adding that police were still investigating how the 10 gunmen obtained the SIM cards.
But the announcement had police in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, fuming. We have told Calcutta police that Ahmed is “our man and it’s now up to them how to facilitate his release,” said one senior officer speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information. Other police officials in Kashmir supported his account.
The officer said Ahmed was a Special Police Officer, part of a semiofficial counterinsurgency network whose members are usually drawn from former militants. The force is run on a special funding from the federal Ministry of Home Affairs. “Sometimes we use our men engaged in counterinsurgency ops to provide SIM cards to the (militant) outfits so that we track their plans down,” said the officer.
Police said Ahmed was recruited to the force after his brother was killed five years ago, allegedly by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants for being a police informer.
About a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting in Kashmir since 1989, seeking independence from mainly Hindu India or a union with Muslim-majority Pakistan. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region, which is divided between them and claimed by both in its entirety.
The Calcutta police denied the claims from Srinagar. “This is not true,” said Kumar.
The bungling and mis-communication among India’s many security services comes as police said they were re-examining another suspected Lashkar militant who was arrested nine months before the attacks carrying hand-drawn sketches of Mumbai hotels, the train terminal and other targeted sites.
It is a standard and understandable practice of Indian security forces to use captured militants or ex-militants with grievances for counter-insurgency operations. What is strange is that SIM cards purchased by these agents working for Government agencies were used by Mumbai terrorists. We can see here a direct clash between the Kashmir and the Calcutta Police.
This could have been dismissed as a one off instance were it not for the fact that even earlier there have been reports of Police informers and even Pakistanis working as double agents for RAW being framed in terror attacks in India.
One such affair is the strange case of the Red Fort terror attack, resembling the Parliamentary attack, in December 2007. A man named Muhammad Arif alias Ashfaq was caught and sentenced to be hanged for being the mastermind. The Court let all other `terrorists’ go. Tehelka has this to say in a report: “Arif candidly acknowledged that he was a Pakistani in his statement under Section 313 of the CrPC. But he also explained in detail the circumstances under which he came to India. Arif claimed that he was an operative for RAW, India’s external intelligence agency. His statement reads: “I used to work for the ‘X’ branch of RAW since 1997. On the last day of June 2000, I went to Kathmandu to give some documents to Sanjeev Gupta. I reached there from Pakistan by a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight on my passport number 634417… Sanjeev Gupta accompanied me to Raxaul and from there I came to India by train. He gave me the address of one Nain Singh and his telephone number (6834454), saying he would accommodate me. Nain Singh gave me a room in his own house. He advised me not to tell my real name and address to anyone, and to say that I was a resident of Jammu.”
The evidence gathered by TEHELKA indicates that Arif wasn’t lying. He did stay with Nain Singh, who was working for RAW and who admitted before the court that he was employed with the Cabinet Secretariat, the usual euphemism for RAW. Arif stayed for one and-a-half months in Nain Singh’s house in south-east Delhi’s Okhla village. While Nain Singh acknowledged Arif’s stay in his house, he explained it away by saying that the house belonged to his mother. “Azam Mailk was a tenant in the house. He brought Arif to my mother. I was not in Delhi at the time. Arif informed me that he was a resident of Jammu. I told my mother that the house should not be rented to a Kashmiri. Thereafter he vacated the house within one-and-a-half months.” When the court asked Nain Singh about what he did, Singh replied: “I cannot disclose my present official address. I cannot produce my identity card in the open court (the identity card was shown to the judge and returned). I am working for the Cabinet Secretariat. I cannot disclose whether I am working for RAW.”
But this aspect and Nain Singh’s credentials were not probed: “Nain Singh was not cross-questioned. The police did not deem it fit to investigate what a Pakistani national charged with a terror attack was doing staying in the house of a RAW operative. Instead, the Special Cell made Singh a government witness. The Delhi High Court took strong exception to this. Says the High Court judgement, “Nain Singh, who appears to have been working for some intelligence wing of the government, definitely cannot be made a prosecution witness. It cannot be expected that he wouldn’t have known that the person to whom he let out his house was a foreigner who had gained illegal entry to India.”
Why are Arif’s links with Nain Singh not being enquired into? Are those working for intelligence agencies above the law? The High Court raised objections but went ahead and endorsed Arif’s death sentence. Arif may well be guilty but can he be hanged when so many questions remain unanswered?
There are more loopholes. Phone records indicate that Arif and Nain Singh did not sever their relations after the Pakistani moved out of the RAW officers’ home. Not just this, Arif was in touch with two officials in the Special Cell ― Inspector RS Bhasin and Ved Prakash ― because they had been introduced to him by Nain Singh. The Delhi High Court in its judgment, however, says: “It appears to us that the accused must have taken some advantage of his acquaintance with the police and intelligence officials, and under the shelter of that acquaintance must have been carrying out nefarious activities.”
The court recognises the fact that Arif was getting some leverage from the Special Cell but stops short of critically examining the phone records according to which Arif and the Special Cell officers were in regular touch with each other. Another question rises over how a man acquainted with members of the Special Cell could have plotted and carried out the attack without their having any idea of it? At any rate, the fact that Arif was in touch with the officers even before the attack casts serious doubts on the objectivity of the investigation”.
In the light of such evidence, it is pertinent to look at what Arif has to say. He denies any role in the Red Fort terror attack. Instead, he alleges that the Special Cell operatives, whom he was in touch with, have falsely implicated him in the case. In his statement, Arif mentions an amount of Rs 7 lakh sent to Nain Singh through Sanjeev Gupta for Arif’s use. “But Nain Singh did not admit to receiving the money… I spoke to Sanjeev Gupta and opened an account with HDFC Bank. My chequebook remained with Nain Singh. Whenever I needed money, I used to take it from Nain Singh. My asking for money used to annoy Nain Singh, and he ultimately got me falsely involved in this case.”
A bank account was indeed opened in Arif’s name at HDFC with the help of fake documents. Arif had a fake ration card and a fake driving licence. His bank account number, 0891000024344, had Rs 5,53,000 at the time of his arrest. According to the police, the money had come through hawala transactions. A person who had access to his account would have gained if Arif was not in the picture.
Arif told the court he had become adamant in demanding his money from Nain Singh. He alleged that on December 25, 2000, Nain Singh called him to his residence, where he met Bhasin and Prakash. The two took Arif to the Lodhi Colony police station and, along with a Sikh officer, interrogated him. “They asked about my entire background,” Arif told the court. Thereafter, he was dropped off at Singh’s house from where he went to his home in Ghazipur in East Delhi. He was arrested there later that night.
The key evidence that links Arif to the site of the crime are the call records of his two mobile phone numbers (9811278510 and 9811242154), which the police claim were used from a single handset (IMEI number 445199440940240). However, TEHELKA’s investigation shows that the records were tampered with (see box). The tampering was done in such a manner as to show that both numbers were used from one phone in Arif’s possession.
There are several inconsistencies in the police version. The time of Arif’s arrest is not the same in the FIR and the arrest memo; the pistol number recovered from Arif recorded in the seizure memo is different from the one mentioned in the expert examination report ― the High Court called it “an inadvertent error by the writer”. There were no public witnesses when the evidence was collected, either at Red Fort or at Arif’s house. While Head Constable Satbir Singh claims that an AK-47 was found near Vijay Ghat, his colleagues claim it was an AK-56.
There is confusion over the route the terrorists are said to have taken to enter Red Fort. While Captain SP Patwardhan says they would have entered from the Saleem Garh Gate/Yamuna Bridge, the cops says they came from the Lahori Gate. The two gates are at opposite ends of the Red Fort complex. The rope the terrorists allegedly used to let themselves down from the walls of the Fort was found lying in a coil on the Fort’s terrace. Nobody saw the terrorists’ faces. The only description available is of two men dressed in black. The chowkidar on duty at the Lahori Gate was never questioned. A call was made from the number 9811278510 to BBC journalists in New Delhi and Srinagar just after the Red Fort attack. The caller said the attack had been carried out by the LeT. Mool Chand Sharma, an inspector in the Special Cell, said in his statement: “I reached Red Fort along with my staff at about 10:45pm.
The commissioner of police and senior army officers were already there. There I came to know that terrorists belonging to the LeT had shot dead three army personnel and escaped.” How did Sharma know the attackers were from the LET even before the investigation had started? To send a man to the gallows on the basis of such flimsy evidence is nothing if not a mockery of justice. Is Arif an easy scapegoat, or is he just a pawn in some greater conspiracy? Hanging him will not provide the answers”.
So what do we make of all this? Has anyone mentioned the Red Fort case? There have been so many instances when several Police agents etc have been double crossed and killed. The pattern seems to be that either these forces are being used by Indian State actors who are aware of their existence or that our security forces have been infiltrated or both.
The second shock comes from the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP); there an India Today report discloses that the Rampur Police has disclosed that much before the Mumbai attack, they had caught a terrorist in Rampur who had confessed about impending attacks not just in Mumbai but Taj and other destinations:
Mumbai Police had clear intelligence inputs on an imminent terrorist attack, according to the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh police. Contradicting Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil’s claim, the STF said Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorist Fahim Ahmed Ansari, presently lodged in Rampur jail, had revealed the plan to it and to Mumbai Police which had interrogated him in February-end.
Fahim was nabbed by the STF on February 10 this year, along with two others, for his involvement in the Rampur CRPF camp attack on January 1, 2008 in which seven soldiers and a civilian were killed. UP police had proclaimed him mastermind for the planned Mumbai attack right after it recovered a map of Mumbai with important establishments earmarked and railway tickets from Lucknow to Mumbai from him. On Thursday, additional director general of police (STF) Brij Lal reiterated the claim: “Fahim was mastermind for the Mumbai attack. He was assigned to make arrangements for terrorists in Mumbai and had visited it several times in this regard. He had revealed all this to us and to Mumbai Police.”
Two terrorists had been nabbed along with Fahim on February 10 – Muhammad Anwar and Arshad Ali. The U.P. STF had arrested three others of the group from Charbagh Railway Station in Lucknow on the same night (February 10) and identified them as Sabauddin Ahmed, Abu Zar and Abu Sama. Sabauddin was also involved in attack on Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc) on December 28, 2005 in which a professor had died.
The U.P. STF had said that they were fidayeens, trained to attack military camps, police establishments and important civilian centres and were on their way to Mumbai. Brij Lal said when the information was conveyed to Mumbai Police, it took Fahim on remand in the last week of February before he was sent back to Rampur jail in March. “He had revealed during interrogation in Mumbai that he and Anwar had visited all important centres in Mumbai, including the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Taj Mahal Hotel,” he said.
U.P. police also believe the Fahim link gets credence from the fact that the attacks in Mumbai bear a striking resemblance to the attack in Rampur as terrorists ran amok in the city and took people hostage. “Since the Mumbai and Rampur attacks have the same pattern, we believe the terrorists had shelved their Mumbai plan for some time only to execute it to deadly effect now with minor changes in the blueprint,” said a top U.P. police officer. Sources in Uttar Pradesh home department say now Fahim and Anwar would be brought to Lucknow from Rampur jail in a day or two for fresh interrogation.
Rakesh Maria of the Mumbai has confirmed that “Fahim might be the mastermind behind the Mumbai attack”.
So, if this is Rakesh Maria’s attiude, then what about all the stories that Kasab the terrorist caught by the Police is telling? For the record, Kasab did not mention even once the name of Faheem.
This might be because Kasab did not know about the existence of Faheem―if that is the case, then the Mumbai attack seems much more and more a contractual-mercenary operation, during which the direct executors, people like Kasab, do not know either the `mastermind’ or the mastermind behind the mastermind, who would have given the supari or the contract for the operation.
So, the question which no one is asking, that was this a contract operation? And who might have given out the contract?
This again brings the question of who would benefit from Karkare’s death and the timing of the Mumbai attack―it is important to emphasize that all contractual terrorist operations are, and I am quoting a CIA manual here (the CIA and the Mossad excel in contract terrorism as can be seen from several books, especially on CIA-Mossad operations in Beirut and Lebanon) “in essence a question of gamble. We do it to achieve multiple objectives. But it is almost impossible that all those objectives will be met; even if one or two are met, the operation is a success”.
The Mumbai attack has the appearance of a `multiple objective’ strike, in which some objectives like Karkare’s death were met and some, like BJP’s winning elections in Delhi and Rajasthan were not.