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India releases names, photos of alleged Mumbai conspirators

Details said to link gunmen to towns in Pakistan

By Muneeza Naqvi
Associated Press / December 10, 2008
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MUMBAI - Police yesterday released names and photographs of suspected Islamic militants who they say staged the bloody three-day siege of Mumbai, and they said they uncovered new details about the gunmen, including their hometowns in Pakistan.

The new information, if confirmed, would bolster India's claim that the attack was launched from Pakistan and was released as the Pakistani government announced more arrests in raids on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that India blames for the assault on its financial capital.

Indian officials maintained a skeptical silence about the reported crackdown and arrest of an alleged mastermind of the Mumbai assault, which killed 171 people, raised fears of war between the nuclear-armed neighbors, and eroded US hopes for a regional push against Al Qaeda and other extremists.

Mumbai's chief police investigator, Rakesh Maria, showed photographs of eight of the nine slain attackers, some from identity cards, but three were gruesome pictures of maimed faces.

The body of the ninth was too badly burned to show in a photo, he said.

The 10th gunman, previously identified as Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was captured alive.

Maria said all 10 attackers were from Pakistan, most of them Punjab province, and were between the ages of 20 and 28.

He did not say how police had tracked down their hometowns, although they have been interrogating the lone surviving gunman.

The attackers, who apparently landed by boat on the Mumbai coast the night of Nov. 26, were led by Ismail Khan, 25, Maria said, describing him as a battle-hardened Lashkar veteran. The picture released shows a broad-shouldered man with a square face.

As they split up to attack different targets, Khan went with Kasab to a crowded train station where they emptied assault rifles at the helpless passengers before escaping out the back.

Sebastian D'Souza, a journalist who followed them, taking pictures, described the pair as "backpackers with assault rifles."

"They were firing from their hips. Very professional. Very cool," D'Souza said told the Associated Press after the attack.

Khan was eventually shot dead and Kasab was captured, but not before they allegedly killed the head of Mumbai's Anti-Terror Force and several other officers.

Another picture showed Babar Imran, a gunman who has been described as "hauntingly calm" while holding six people hostage at a Jewish center run by the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Imran, with his long thin face and sleepy eyes, used the alias Abu Akasha and came from the central Pakistani city of Multan, Maria said.

During the time he held Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg; Holtzberg's wife, Rivka; and four other visitors to the center, Imran repeatedly answered Holtzberg's mobile phone, talking to representatives of the Chabad movement in New York.

Imran spoke softly, said P.V. Viswanath, who translated the phone conversations in Urdu for Chabad officials.

"I think that shows something about his state of mind, it was very calm and collected," Viswanath told the AP in New York, where he is a finance professor at Pace University.

Viswanath, who grew up in Mumbai and is an Orthodox Jew, said Imran didn't display any anger or hatred for Jews.

"He didn't say anything about Israel or make any anti-Semitic comments."

Commandos who stormed the Jewish center after two days found all six hostages dead.

The Holtzbergs' 2-year-old son, Moshe, survived when he was whisked out of the building by his nanny and another worker.

"It's very hard to say the pictures meant anything for us emotionally," Menachem Brod, a Chabad spokesman in Israel, said of the photos released yesterday.

"They are the ultimate evil."

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