Mumbai terror suspect's taped voice comes to life

Published Jul 02, 2012 09:14am

Delhi police officers escort Syed Zabiuddin Ansari.—AP Photo
Delhi police officers escort Syed Zabiuddin Ansari.—AP Photo

NEW DELHI: The voice had long haunted Indian police investigating Mumbai's deadly 2008 terrorist attack.    

They had repeatedly listened to a tape of cell phone intercepts containing chilling words from one of the men guiding 10 terrorists through the gun-blazing rampage that killed 166 people in India's financial capital.

''Pass this message to the media—‘this is just the trailer; the real film is yet to come,''' the voice said.

Anti-terror police engaged in one of India's largest investigations had no idea who the man was, only that he had a Mumbai accent and used Hindi words unusual for Urdu speakers like the attackers on the ground.

Police believe they finally have the man behind the disembodied voice after ferreting out the suspect from Saudi Arabia where he was hiding, according to officials close to the investigation. They say he had given himself away to the police by opening a Facebook account under his real name—Syed Zabiuddin Ansari.

Ansari—an Indian citizen whose aliases include Abu Humza, Abu Jindal and Abu Jundal—was arrested at New Delhi airport on June 21 after Saudi Arabia agreed to hand him to Indian officials and put him on a flight home.

Indian investigators told The Associated Press that Ansari was considered a key player in the plans for attacks on India. They say he was so central to the Mumbai attack plans he was among those giving orders by the minute to the attackers or directing them on their cell phones from a control room in Karachi, Pakistan during the Nov 26-28 bloodbath.

The investigators spoke on condition of anonymity because they were disclosing sensitive information.

Ansari's interrogation is expected to bolster the Indian government's accusations — and accepted as a fact by most ordinary Indians — that Pakistan was behind the attack, the most brazen terrorist operation on India's soil.

His arrest is a rare piece of good news for a government reeling from economic and political troubles.

''Clearly there was state support for the 26/11 massacre,'' Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said Friday.

Indian investigators say Ansari has already told them that Pakistani intelligence officials were in the control room during the 60-hour siege — corroborating testimony by American terrorist suspect David Coleman Headley, who said during his Chicago trial last year that Pakistani intelligence officials were involved.

Ansari has also told investigators he fled India in 2006 across the border to Bangladesh, escaping from a police raid in the western Indian town of Aurangabad on an illegal cache of weapons and explosives intended for future attacks within India, the officials said.

The assault was like no other India had experienced. Bombs and grenades went off at the famed Taj Mahal and Trident hotels. Then, 10 trained militants fanned out through the hotels and through the main train station and a Jewish cultural centre and gunned down people in their paths.

The attack went on for three days, as Indian police scrambled to keep up with the militants who were receiving detailed instructions by cell phone.

Eventually all but one of the gunmen were killed.

The survivor, Ajmal Kasab, told a special Indian court he and the others were tutored by a man named Abu Jindal on how to speak with a Hindi accent to avoid detection in India and confuse police about their origins.

Police are now looking for a second man who is heard on the tape from the control room. That man, who police believe is Muzammil Butt, based on testimony from other suspects, is heard cutting the attackers off as they exclaimed about the size of the television screens and the luxury fittings in the five-star hotels.

At one point, he is heard saying: ''How hard is it to throw a grenade? Just pull the pin and throw it.''

Investigators had been looking for Ansari for years after he was implicated by other suspects in the Mumbai attacks, but they never knew his exact role in the attack, said officials close to the investigation.

India learned Ansari was living in Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport, officials said.

Both India and Pakistan then began lobbying for his release into their custody, but India clinched the arrest by providing DNA samples from Ansari's Indian family members, who live in the western state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, the officials said.

Intelligence agents are now interrogating Ansari in a secret location on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Ansari told Indian investigators he had gone to Saudi Arabia to raise funds and recruit more Indians as militants. Investigators say militant groups routinely try to recruit Indians from among the two million Indians living in Saudi Arabia or the millions who visit the country to perform the Haj.

He might have remained in the shadows had he not opened a Facebook account in his real name to find new recruits, the officials said. The Times of India reported last week that Ansari also used the account to contact accomplices, who may have been under global scrutiny by intelligence agencies.

Indian investigators followed his electronic trail to Riyadh, and this week used voice recognition tests to match Ansari's voice with the man on the tape. While the Hindi he spoke is similar enough to Urdu that speakers understand each other, there are many words that differ.

The man recorded giving instructions to the attackers used a few Hindi words an Urdu speaker would not use, such as "prashasan" for "administration," officials said. The Urdu word would be "intizamiya."

Investigators have sent the voice samples to a lab for further analysis, newspaper reports said.

Saudi Arabia's decision to hand Ansari over to India, rather than Pakistan, appeared to surprise Indian officials.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin described the arrest as something "rather new" in Saudi-Indian relations.

"Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is expanding in a variety of ways."

Analysts said Riyadh's decision marked a significant shift.

"It is a signal to Pakistan that it will get isolated if it thinks state sponsorship of terrorism can be a viable policy option," said Ajit Doval, former chief of India's Intelligence Bureau.

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Comments (70) (Closed)

Citizen from India
Jul 03, 2012 05:59pm
All TOI wants to to is gain readership so it could claim to be the most read newspaper. How else would you explain pictures on sunny leone every other day on TOI? A handful of international news stories that do show up are text copied from cnn, huffington post, washington post (with no concern for grammar) with distorted titles. I mean, I could keep going on and on about how hideous TOI is. DAWN - I wouldn't even compare it with TOI to say its good.
Jul 03, 2012 05:52pm
Try "The Hindu" for news that really matters....TOI is a cheap tabloid who do not even proof read their articles before publishing
Jul 03, 2012 04:55pm
you are right bro, but you have to do something to these militants because they are putting innocent lives at risk
Jul 04, 2012 01:53pm
good one...
Jul 03, 2012 08:17am
High time, Pakistan stop its downward spiral, for its own sake !
Jul 03, 2012 08:17am one else is they know this is the truth..
Jul 04, 2012 05:56am
There you go. Our educated Pakistani brothers tend to blame everyone else other than themselves for the ills festering in their society(and the region). Just because the militants in your country kill lots of Muslims doesn't absolve your country of responsibility for nurturing them in the first place.
Jul 03, 2012 02:30pm
I congratulate Dawn for reporting what may seem to be a painful truth. Can Dawn now find out and report on who exactly is Muzammil Butt and if there is a an interpol warrant out for him. If nothing else the Pakistan Intelligence agencies might think twice about their actions and prevent Ansari's prediction of the 'real film yet to come'.
Jul 03, 2012 05:24am
I don't understand why Pakistan wanted Abu to be released to them unless they knew they would be implicated and the truth will come out.
Jul 03, 2012 02:29pm
Dawn has the courage to print the news as it is and not afraid of anybody. QA MAJ would be proud of this paper.
Jul 03, 2012 05:54am
Excellent Job by Indian authorities
Jul 03, 2012 01:48pm
Good article. Glad the truth was reported in a Pakistani newspaper. "Dawn" and the "The Hindu" are the best newspapers in Pakistan & India respectively.
Jul 03, 2012 01:00pm
You should read more of Pakistani papers then. But indeed both the countries need to solve their issues before more innocent civilians lose their life or worse quality of life on both sides of the line.
Dr Mazhar
Jul 03, 2012 11:15am
Dear Indians, If you'll keep listening to your news media, you'll hate Pakistan. The reality is, these militants do not represent Pakistani society neither Islam, Even they have killed more muslims and Pakistani than any other religion or country. But Indian News media always spread hatred and disinformation.
Nirav Desai
Jul 02, 2012 06:37pm
i seem to like the dawn newspaper more that TOI. i like the fact that they are reporting news and no commercials pop up. every time i open toi my computer is hammered with and crap like that. way to go Dawn. Everytime i want to check news from india, i go to this website is well designed and content is well written.
shrirang, Mumbai
Jul 03, 2012 10:38am
Sahi Kaha Bhai,
shrirang, Mumbai
Jul 03, 2012 10:35am
TOI is full of Rape,molestation,sex,advertisement,biased news etc.... Dawn is a world class newspaper. Like a daily dose of tea, I regularly follow Dawn.
Jul 02, 2012 06:46pm
That's surprising... I don't remember either converting or having a former country.
Jul 02, 2012 07:55pm
close the comments section. only people are going to spew hate here.
Jul 03, 2012 05:06pm
I have stopped visiting TOI altogether. Dawn is far far better in case of content and presentation. And Dawn has NFP too :):)
Jul 02, 2012 09:26pm
it is said the hands of law are very long.... goes to prove that even though after four years, finally law caught up with this shame on humanity. hope both Pakistan and India succeed in wiping out terrorism from their soils
Pankaj Patel (USA)
Jul 02, 2012 09:33pm
Hats off to Down for publishing this AP report in a Pakistani news paper.I hope all Pakistani news media come out from this self denial and accept truth when ever it is obvious.I assure you that Indians will surely reciprocate by calling it's government to stop meddling in internal affairs of Pakistan and develop good relation.As neighbors we will always have problems but we should resolve them amicably for the betterment of our masses
Irfan UK
Jul 02, 2012 10:35pm
please everyone try to work for peace not hate I am a Pakistani living in UK and I am proud to be a Pakistani but at the same time love Indians and Pakistanis just the same as we r at least cousins if not brothers. Islam means peace and we should also mean peace.
Jul 03, 2012 09:21am
I have heard this after a long time from an Indian and I welcome the comment with open heart. There are many anarchist but only few reformers
Jul 02, 2012 11:42pm
Spread the word of love & Peace! Don't feel like reading or listening any bad news...
Baba Sidni
Jul 03, 2012 12:52am
How do you define aliens spiritually ? Those who came a few hundred years ago, or those who came five thousand years ago?
Jul 03, 2012 02:19am
This all is a big drama-there are similar people on both sides of the border, playing with peoples' emotions by staging these dramas.
Sheetal Suleman
Jul 04, 2012 05:58am
I think that things are more politicized in both the countries, however, we as liberal people should develop an open attitude towards each other because at the end of the day, we are all human beings, having the same senses and the same feelings. We should not only work for the prosperity of our own countries but make efforts to bring about peace in the world around us, so that it becomes a better and safer place for all to live in.
Jul 04, 2012 06:49am
Dear Dr Mazhar your Pak govt. or some of its elements are hell bent on stoking anti India fire> Just see what the militants are doing to your Pakistan state, which the Pak govt had earlier given full patronage. The funds which are being invested in nuclear arms, purchase of military aircrafts, submarines if diverted to schemes for common man could do wonders for both the countries. But alas, your Pak govt. is least bothered about its own people but has only one point agenda as how to humiliate. The Pak govt does not have funds or resources to look after the health of its children[ around 100 children come to India from Pakistan for treatment every year], it cannot solve water problem, electricity problem, health problem, education problem but it still wants to have war with India.
Suresh RS
Jul 04, 2012 07:50pm
I gave you a 'thumbs down' for such a hateful comment ... surprising that Dawn didn't filter it.
Sheetal Suleman
Jul 04, 2012 05:44am
i think that things are more politicized in both the countries however, we as liberal people should have an open attitude with each other, as at the end of the day we are all human beings, with the same senses and the same feelings. Lets all work for the prosperity of not only our countries but the world around us so that it becomes a better and safe place for all.
Jul 04, 2012 07:09am
VS Naipaul has very well studied the arabization that come with Islam and conflict for the converts. Still these converts will be considered inferior to arabs. And they have to learn arabic to understand religion better. Hey ....... Now a religion needs a language !!!!
Jul 04, 2012 09:26am
Go back to School- if not in ur curriculum, google to enlight ur self. Ya its TRUE that 98% pakistanis are convrt Hindus. Not to mention INDIA is like a mother to pakistan & Bangladesh. i dont know how u will take- but we are cousins, seprated by HATE only
Jul 04, 2012 07:55am
"Indian News media always spread hatred and disinformation" Funny you say that becuase if you read the comments section if Indian papers they are always being attacked by right wingers for being "too secular" or "Hindu hating"
Jul 04, 2012 08:26pm
Hi Akil, This is off topic we need separate discussion for this..i will be very much interested if pakistan govt and media provides all kind of proof and dosier about Sarbjit and indian intellience the way indian govt is provided for mumbai blast as this is going to watch whole world.
Jul 04, 2012 08:00am
History is like a river. it flows only in one direction. you cant erase or correct the past. So leave it as it is. Why can't you just speak about the issue at hand ratehr than go in a different tangent. And as for "Sir Naipaul" he is hardly an India lover or even a good Hindu. He married two women, neither of them a Hindu, his curret one being a pakistani Muslim! Talk about irony.
Jul 04, 2012 06:58pm
Its a newspaper worth reading all over the world for its unbiased coverage and high quality blogs and news. I love dawn and read it everyday
Dr Hussain
Jul 04, 2012 11:57pm
Hi Guys, will you please solve this riddle; In this so-called war on (of) terror, If Pakistan is helping Talibans/Al-Qaida, then, who killed more than 40,000 Pakistani civilians and army soldiers? USA or India?
Jul 04, 2012 09:24pm
Indeed , a world class news paper..dawn
Jul 03, 2012 04:12pm
Ever heard of The Hindu?
Azhar Chaudhry
Jul 03, 2012 09:13am
well said. like...good.
Jul 02, 2012 11:57am
Dude stop spreading Hate, Our country has issues and so does Pakistan. Lets just live in Peace. Okay?
Jul 02, 2012 10:52am
well done India!
Jul 04, 2012 09:14am
It is also weird that india is opting to believe the terrorists and extremists... guess they trust them to say things as taught!?
Jul 02, 2012 05:56pm
It proves India has a threat within. Their own citizens are hatching plots against their own country. Just like Pakistan has threat from some of their own people who are then supported and used by their nemesis. Unless both sides stop attacking each other this menace will not go away.
Jul 03, 2012 09:10am
Same here...DAWN is way better than TOI
Komal S
Jul 02, 2012 04:59pm
Real question is, how India & Pakistan is going to work together to bring this investigation to it's logical end. Given the India had caught hold of this key person, there is no reason for the Indian Government to put Pakistan on the backfoot. You can be firm but no need to corner their government. When you do that, you can see the reaction from the Pakistani government. Everybody needs to be smart and less emotional.
Jul 03, 2012 04:18pm
Sorry Sir, but I don't consider getting justice for 200 people to be drama. Hiding your head in the mud does not bring peace.
Jul 03, 2012 04:21pm
Dear Dr. Then why are the culprits released on bail and roaming around freely in Pakistan. Both US and Indias investigations point towards 'state support', and yet we have the guilty not convicted. Why is the judiciary unwilling to punish the guilty!
Jul 02, 2012 03:24pm
Every country in the world has issues. Does that mean truth should be tossed out the window till every nation becomes perfect? Wake up, buddy!
Jul 04, 2012 05:04am
Need to read your history Ali
Jul 04, 2012 02:56pm
You said it !
Virendra Kaul
Jul 04, 2012 04:42am
We all wish that peace returns to the region.
JP (India)
Jul 04, 2012 03:59am
Well, I agree with all the remarks against TOI. I had to move it to my kid's block list as it carries a lot of inappropriate material. Congrats Dawn for keeping it Clean.
Jul 04, 2012 03:28am
Wishful thinking by the writer and bloggers. Dawn is heavily read by Indian's
Jul 04, 2012 03:12am
Ask your forefathers if you can, else forget it, we in no mood to convince you.
Jul 04, 2012 12:49pm
so are you saying what ever he is saying(irrespective of it being suiting the indian point of view) are untrue ??? well if thats what you think then i am not surprised.. another pakistani living in denial.. i hope you live to see the day when the country is down and dusted.
Akil Akhtar
Jul 04, 2012 12:37am
Agree, Sarbjit Sing exploded bombs in Pakistan more than 20 years ago. We all know how indian intelligence has been committing terrorist acts in pakistan for decades. the problem is the denial from the indian public and complete whitewash of such news.
Akil Akhtar
Jul 04, 2012 12:35am
Like Qasab they will never allow anyone to talk to these suspects and all the revelations will come from the indian govt. There will enver be any proof or independent verification provided. It is amazing how anyone caught starts talking like a parrot and says things which suit indian point of view only.
p kumar
Jul 03, 2012 11:24pm
i can see that dawn is better but surprisingly dawn's aura is not shared by either pakistan or pakistanis.i have long delved on this and could only surmise that mr jinnah's soul migrated back to india and left pakistan in an area of darkness that is distinguished from the lands to it's west only by dawn
Jul 04, 2012 11:43am
I 100% agree. Dawn is a world class newspaper......
Jul 03, 2012 09:43pm
yeah u will not like indian media cos they dont serve any business and try to tell the truth however bitter it is ....
Jul 03, 2012 09:44pm
yeah that is cos dawn does not talk crap and anti india propaganda
Mustafa Razavi
Jul 03, 2012 08:55pm
dEEPak; Let him continue, it is really very funny.
Jul 03, 2012 07:41pm
Hmm, you think your own history goes back to 1947 and Pakistan's history goes back to Mohammed Bin Kasim? Ok, google Taxila & also Nalanda and try to figure out who were they.
Jul 03, 2012 06:08pm
I second ur thoughts.
Iftikhar Husain
Jul 04, 2012 11:44am
This is again nice investigation looks like a 007 type story but seems real.
Jul 03, 2012 02:52pm
Well said Irfan. I love Pakistanis too as also Indians. I feel both of us have gone astray a bit. Need to focus more on mutual love and understanding.
Jul 05, 2012 01:24am
yes even me an indian i love dawn it is equally as the hindu (newspaper)
Aug 02, 2012 12:07am
Quaid is very Happy now