Jan 7, 2009

India - Mumbai gunmen were commanded by phone

Sam Dolnick

The gunman said into the phone, "We have three foreigners, including women." The response was plain and brutal: "Kill them," the man said. Gunshots rang out inside the Mumbai hotel, followed by a round of cheering.

The ruthless exchange comes from a transcript of phone calls intercepted during the Mumbai attacks that was part of a dossier of evidence India handed Pakistan this week.

New Delhi says the evidence, which also included photographs of recovered weapons, data gleaned from satellite phones, and details from the interrogation of the lone surviving gunman, proves that the Mumbai siege was launched from across the border. Pakistani authorities have dismissed the evidence as "a propaganda offensive" designed "to whip up tensions" in the region.

The transcripts, which were obtained by the newspaper The Hindu, show that the 10 gunmen who carried out the attacks were in close contact with their handlers throughout the siege. India says the handlers directing the attacks that left 164 dead were senior leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group. "There are three ministers and one secretary of the cabinet in your hotel. We don't know in which room," the handler told a gunman inside the Taj Mahal hotel at 3:10 a.m. on the first night of the attack.

"Oh! That is good news. It is the icing on the cake!" he said. The handler told him to find the government officials "and then get whatever you want from India."

The handlers in Pakistan told another team of gunmen who had seized a Jewish center to shoot the hostages if necessary. "If you are still threatened, then don't saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them," he said. He then added, "If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel."

"So be it, God willing," the gunman replied. Six Jewish foreigners, including a rabbi and his wife, were killed inside the Jewish center.

Later in the night, nearly 24 hours after the attacks began, the handlers urged the gunmen to "be strong in the name of Allah" "Brother, you have to fight. This is a matter of prestige of Islam. You may feel tired or sleepy, but the commandos of Islam have left everything behind, their mothers, their fathers." The gunmen were told several times not to kill any Muslim hostages.

They were ordered, "Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire."

No comments: