07 January 2009

Telephone trail key part of evidence shared with Pakistan

Indian dossier blames the Lashkar-e-Taiba, makes no mention of ISI. More than a collection of evidence presentable in a court of law, it contains leads that a diligent investigation on the Pakistani side could use to unravel the wider conspiracy...

7 January 2009
The Hindu
[Note: In the print edition of The Hindu, this story was split into two parts. I have combined both parts below but the second part is available separately here.]

[A PDF version of the scanned dossier has been posted on a separate page at the Hindu website.]

Telephone trail key part of evidence shared with Pakistan

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: The evidentiary dossier given to Pakistan on Monday marks the first systematic Indian presentation of what ongoing investigations into the Mumbai terrorist attacks have revealed so far.

Though many of the facts about how the attacks were staged have been known for some time now, the 69-page document — a copy of which is with The Hindu — provides crucial details about the telephone links between the attackers and Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives and identifies for the first time the names of six “Pakistan-based handlers” who were constantly in touch with the gunmen even as they wreaked havoc in the city during the November 26-29, 2008 incidents.

According to the dossier, the handlers who provided real-time commando-style advice to the terrorists holed up at the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels and Nariman House were ‘Wassi,’ ‘Zarar,’ ‘Jundal,’ ‘Buzurg, ‘Major General’ and ‘Kafa.’ Though the dossier does not identify any of the six as a functionary or operative of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, Indian officials say the links and affiliations of some of the aliases used by the handlers in their intercepted phone conversations with the terrorists have left New Delhi in no doubt about the involvement of the ISI in the attacks.

The government has prepared two versions of the dossier, one for the 14 countries which lost citizens in the attacks and a slightly redacted edition for Pakistan and the rest of the world. Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon handed over the dossier to ambassadors from the 14 countries on Monday. And on Tuesday, senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs briefed envoys from other countries with diplomatic representation in India, including European, Middle Eastern and Latin American nations.

The dossier consists of a 13-page presentation of the main facts of the case and an outline of the evidence generated by the investigation to date. This evidence is then laid out further in a set of annexures.

The evidence includes eight partial transcripts of selected intercepted conversations between the terrorists and their handlers, data from the GPS equipment recovered from the fishing trawler, Kuber, photographs of ordnance used in the attack and items of daily use recovered from the Kuber, all with clearly identified Pakistani markings, and, most crucially, an account of the money trail linking Pakistan-based operatives to the purchase of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling platform used by the handlers to try and mask their physical location.

Telephone link, transcripts

Amidst the clutter of telephone calls the Indian intelligence agencies were monitoring into and out of the Taj Mahal hotel on the night of the November 26 terrorist attack was one from a ‘virtual number’ – 12012531824 — generated by a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony service based in the United States.

According to the dossier, Pakistan-based “controllers/handlers used the virtual number to contact a mobile telephone with one of the terrorists. This conversation was intercepted and, thereafter, all calls made through the virtual number were also intercepted and recorded.”

Providing the first-ever details of the investigations into the VoIP account, the dossier says the virtual number was initially set up with a U.S. company, Callphonex, by an individual who identified himself as Kharak Singh from India.

The account was activated by a money gram transferred in the name of Mohammed Ashfaq. “Kharak Singh also requested Callphonex to assign five Austrian Direct Inward Dialling (DID) numbers because his clients called from different countries, including India,” the dossier says. The account was paid for by a money transfer of $238.78 through Western Union by one Javaid Iqbal who provided, as a form of identification, a Pakistani passport (No. KC 092481).

The dossier adds: “Investigations have revealed that Callphonex asked Kharak Singh if he was from India why the Western Union Transfer was coming from Pakistan.
No reply

Apparently, Callphonex received no reply. The VoIP interceptions yielded more evidence to Indian agencies as they revealed the use of three Austrian numbers “which were given to the terrorists by the controllers/handlers and conversations with these numbers by the terrorists were also intercepted and recorded,” the dossier notes.

These Austrian numbers, in turn, correspond to the DID numbers assigned by Callphonex to ‘Kharak Singh.’ The details of the VoIP account are one of multiple pieces of evidence the Indian government has laid out before Pakistan and all Delhi-based foreign envoys to prove its claim that the attacks on Mumbai were staged by elements from Pakistan.

Several ambassadors who were present at the region-wise briefings at the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday and Tuesday told The Hindu that they found the Indian dossier compelling. “It is fully in line with our own belief of how this incident was planned,” said one of the envoys from the group of 14 countries who lost citizens in the attacks.

In their oral presentations, Indian officials told the envoys of their belief that the ISI was indeed involved in the incident. Though this claim was not contested, at least one nation, the United States, has told India it is still not in a position to share this perception.

One of the transcripts contained in the dossier provides the answer to why the terrorists left their satellite phone behind on the Kuber with potentially incriminating data. “Did you open the locks for the water below,” a caller from Pakistan asked one of the terrorists at the Taj Hotel at 0126 hours on November 27, presumably in a reference to a pre-arranged plan to sink the trawler. “No, they did not open the locks. We left it like that because of being in a hurry. We made a big mistake,” the receiver of the phone call answered. “What big mistake?,” he was asked. “When we were getting into the boat, the waves were quite high. Another boat came. Everyone raised an alarm that the Navy had come. Everyone jumped quickly. In this confusion, the satellite phone of Ismail got left behind,” the terrorist replied. The dossier also notes in passing that the GPS set contained trackback points which “were the RV for their intended return after the attack.”

At Monday’s briefing for the 14 nations who lost citizens in the attack, one of the ambassadors asked Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon whether this meant the attack was perhaps not a suicide mission after all. Mr. Menon reportedly said that this was one of the issues which still needed to be probed.

The dossier also contains a second section in which India has attempted to draw attention to the contradictory nature of Pakistan’s response to the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s failure to respond appropriately to Indian requests for cooperation when evidence was provided to it about terrorist acts in the past, and an outline of Pakistan’s bilateral and international commitments and obligations.

The last section of the dossier contains an outline of what India expects Pakistan to do in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. “This was a conspiracy launched from Pakistan. Gaps in knowledge can be filled by investigation and interrogation of conspirators there,” the dossier states, adding, “Some of the actions that India expects Pakistan to undertake in extending cooperation to bring the terrorists to justice are: Hand over conspirators to face justice in India, hand over fugitives from Indian law based in Pakistan, Dismantle infrastructure of terrorism, Prevent terrorist acts from Pakistan, Adhere to and implement bilateral, multilateral and international obligations.”

The dossier notes that on the basis of the interrogation of Mohammed Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab,’ the lone terrorist to be captured alive, the role of Lashkar commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in the training of the crew had been established. The terrorist group initially consisted of 32 persons but the team chosen for the operation was eventually whittled down to 10. Other LeT commanders involved were Abu Hamza, ‘Kaahfa,’ and Yousuf alias Muzammil, the dossier says.

Among the material evidence India has in its possession is the 11-seater inflatable dinghy the terrorists used to move from the hijacked trawler, Kuber, to Mumbai. “An attempt was made by the terrorists to erase the engine number but it has been retrieved by investigators. The outboard motor number is 67 CL-1020015, manufactured by Yamaha Motor Corporation and imported into Pakistan and distributed by a company named ‘Business & Engineering Trends’ in Lahore.” Several items including toiletries, food articles, drums containing diesel and clothes “bear clear evidence of having been manufactured in Pakistan.” Photographs of all these items are provided in an annexure.

The transcripts in the dossier make it apparent that the six handlers were closely monitoring events in Mumbai through the live TV coverage which went on non-stop for 60 hours. “There are three ministers and one secretary of the cabinet in your hotel. We don’t know in which room,” a Pakistan-based caller tells a terrorist at the Taj at 0310 hrs on November 27. “Oh! That is good news” It is the icing on the cake!,” he replies. “Find those 3-4 persons and then get whatever you want from India,” he is instructed. “Pray that we find them,” he answers.

At the Oberoi at 0353 hrs on November 27, a handler phones and says:

“Brother Abdul. The media is comparing your action to 9/11. One senior police official has been killed.”

Abdul Rehman: “We are on the10th/11th floor. We have five hostages.”

Caller 2 (Kafa): Everything is being recorded by the media. Inflict the maximum damage. Keep fighting. Don’t be taken alive.

Caller: Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire.

Fahadullah: We have three foreigners, including women. From Singapore and China.

Caller: Kill them. The dossier then notes that the telephone intercept records the “voices of Fahadullah and Abdul Rehman directing hostages to stand in a line, and telling two Muslims to stand aside. Sound of gunfire. Cheering voices in background. Kafa hands telephone to Zarar,” who says, “Fahad, find the way to go downstairs.”

In another call, to the Taj this time, a handler says, “The ATS chief has been killed. Your work is very important. Allah is helping you. The Vazir (minister) should not escape. Try and set the place on fire.”

At Nariman House at 1945 hrs on November 27, the handler ‘Wassi’ tells a terrorist: “Keep in mind that hostages are of use only as long as you do not come under fire because of their safety. If you are still threatened, then don’t saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them.” He then adds, “The Army claims to have done the work without any hostage being harmed. Another thing: Israel has made a request through diplomatic channels to save the hostages. If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel.”

“So be it, God willing,” the terrorist replies.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Considering such half-hearted enthusiasm for fighting terrorism by Pak, India should not let this Mumbai incident off the hook lightly. India should act like US/FBI in pursuing their case when even one US citizen is killed anywhere in the world or act tough like Israel to clear the mess by force.

Anonymous said...

PDF files 1 and 2 corrupted probably, not opening. could you re-upload?

Timothy Lesle said...

Strong work, Siddharth. Have been following your blog, especially since November. Caught you on National Public Radio this afternoon, as well--well done. Good luck out there.

Anonymous said...

Only dumb idiot indians will trust pakis on anything . Time to fight for your security , yup inspite of "Nuke" crap. Choice is between fight or White flag. Nothing in between.