- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

MUMBAI, INDIA (AP) - The trial of the man police say is the only surviving gunman in the bloody Mumbai siege began Friday, with the prosecutor unleashing innuendo against Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishments and the defendant’s attorney alleging his client was tortured into confessing.

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said that Mohammed Ajmal Kasab had a direct hand in the deaths of 72 people and was part of “a criminal conspiracy hatched in Pakistan,” which could not have been undertaken without training from “intelligence professionals” in Pakistan.

Nikam said the ultimate goal of the attack was the capture of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan; both countries claim the region and have fought two wars over it.

The attacks, Nikam maintained, were masterminded by the Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and said investigations are ongoing to determine the scope of Pakistani involvement in the attack, which killed 166 and injured 304.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

The prosecutor said one suspected accomplice, identified as Colonel R. Saadat Ullah in court papers, works for an organization run by the Pakistani army under the aegis of Pakistan’s Ministry of Information. Ullah, he said, accessed an e-mail account the terrorists used to set up a crucial internet phone connection.

He said the plot was made possible by a “strategic terrorist culture” that had taken root in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials have acknowledged the November attacks were partly plotted on their soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. They have also acknowledged that Kasab is Pakistani but have repeatedly denied their intelligence agencies were involved in the attack.

Kasab and his co-defendants _ two Indians accused of helping plot the attack _ have been charged with 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India. If convicted, all could face death by hanging.

Nikam said Kasab had undergone extensive military and intelligence training in Pakistan and been chosen for the attack after a “Major General” _ whose name and affiliation remain unknown _ praised his good marksmanship.

Kasab allegedly beheaded the navigator of the M.V. Kuber, a fishing trawler he and nine other gunmen _ all dead _ hijacked and sailed to India.

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Nov. 26, Kasab and one other gunman allegedly hailed a taxi to Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, where they sprayed the crowd with bullets and grenades, killing 52 and injuring 109.

They then allegedly made their way to Cama hospital, killing another 16 people, including top anti-terror official Hemant Karkare, before hijacking a car. Kasab allegedly killed three others in the rampage and finally surrendered in a shoot-out near Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach, where police shot his partner dead.

Speaking to The Associated Press after the hearing, Nikam said Kasab underwent three and a half months of intense training in different locations in Pakistan between December 2007 and November 2008.

“We were told to climb a mountain with an empty stomach and a heavy bag,” Kasab said in a confession before an Indian magistrate in February.

In that statement, Kasab also said he and his fellow recruits learned the essential skills of a jihadi: violence and prayer.

They were instructed in the use of AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades, and rocket launchers, and learned how to read maps and navigate at sea.

They were told to disguise themselves as fishermen.

Kasab said in the confession that Mumbai had been targeted because it is a wealthy city and an attack would unleash “a reign of terror in India.”

He said his teachers instructed him to “kill Americans, British, and Israelis because these people are committing atrocities against Muslims.”

Kasab’s defense lawyer, Abbas Kazmi, asked the court to disregard the confession, saying it had been taken under duress.

Kazmi, who was appointed to defend Kasab Thursday, said the confession had been “extracted out of coercion and force. It was not a voluntary statement. He was physically tortured during custody.”

Kasab appeared subdued in court Friday, often resting his head in his hand. At his first court appearance two days ago, he chuckled and chatted with his co-defendants.

His lawyer said he had advised him that chuckling was inappropriate given the gravity of the charges against him.

The proceedings are conducted in English and Hindi. Kazmi said Kasab understands Hindi but does not speak English. No translation is provided.

Nikam, the prosecutor, said he hopes the case will be finished in six months _ which would be extremely fast by the standards of major Indian trials.

His last big case _ the trial for India’s deadliest terror attack, the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people _ took 14 years to complete.

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