Mumbai Gunman Enters Plea Of Guilty

A gunman identified by police as Kasab walks through Mumbai's main rail station during last year's siege.
A gunman identified by police as Kasab walks through Mumbai's main rail station during last year's siege. (By Sebastian D'souza -- Mumbai Mirror Via Ap)
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By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

NEW DELHI, July 20 -- The lone surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai attacks stunned a courtroom audience Monday by confessing his involvement in the deadly carnage that killed more than 170 people.

Ajmal Amir Kasab, one of the 10 gunmen who laid siege to India's financial capital for three days last November, stood as he narrated chilling details of his training in Pakistan, named the individuals who conceived the plan and outlined the journey the gunmen undertook by sea.

Upon reaching Mumbai, the gunmen attacked several sites, including two five-star hotels, a train station and a Jewish outreach center.

Kasab, 22, was captured in a police ambush on the night of the attacks while he was trying to escape in a stolen car. He confessed his involvement while being interrogated but then retracted his statement when the trial began April 1, alleging that police had coerced and tortured him to extract an admission of guilt.

In Mumbai on Monday, the prosecution in Kasab's case was calling a witness when the defendant announced that he wanted to make a confession.

Kasab, who for months had professed his innocence, said the outlawed, Pakistan-based group Lashkar-i-Taiba was behind the attacks, and he revealed the names of the leaders from the group who trained him.

He said one of the suspects who has been arrested, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was the mastermind behind the attack, along with others who engineered it and dispatched the gunmen to travel by ship from Karachi, Pakistan, through the Arabian Sea to Mumbai. The attackers had to change boats four times to reach their destination.

Kasab did not accuse Hafiz Sayeed, the founder of Lashkar-i-Taiba, of involvement.

"We were surprised when he abruptly took the stand and pleaded guilty," Ujjwal Nikam, the prosecuting lawyer in the high-profile trial, said in an interview. "The cat is now out of the bag."

Kasab's attorney, Abbas Kazmi, said he was unaware of his client's plans to plead guilty. "It was shocking for everybody, including me," Kazmi told reporters outside the court.

Noting that Kasab was formally charged in a Pakistani court last week with participating in the attack, Kazmi said his client might have decided to confess after concluding he had no real chance of avoiding conviction. In addition to accusing Kasab, Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency charged Lakhvi and several others and said they would be tried in a court in Rawalpindi.

"It is obvious that someone has told Kasab of this," Kazmi said. "Some of his guards who were manning him in jail must have leaked the information to him."

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