India hangs surviving Mumbai terrorist

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:26 PM

Bibhudatta Pradhan

NEW DELHI - Pakistani militant Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman caught alive during the 2008 guerrilla assault on India’s largest city, was hanged early Wednesday after his mercy plea was rejected, as the two nations bid to rebuild peace talks shattered by the attacks.

Days before the fourth anniversary of the three-day siege of India’s financial capital, authorities executed Kasab at 7:30 a.m. local time at Pune’s Yerwada Jail, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil told reporters. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab’s mercy petition on Nov. 5, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said.

"This is a tribute to the police officers and people who lost their lives," Patil said. "The execution took place after all possible procedures had been exhausted."

Pakistani militants armed with assault weapons and grenades stormed two luxury hotels, Mumbai’s main railway station, a cafe and a Jewish center in a 60-hour rampage four years ago that killed 166 people. Kasab was sentenced to hang by a Mumbai court in 2010. The other nine militants were killed by Indian police. Kasab was found guilty of murder and waging war on India.

The November 2008 strike collapsed a five-year peace process between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, with talks resuming only in February last year. India said the Pakistan- based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group ordered the Nov. 26-29 attack, possibly with the aid of what it called Pakistani "state actors." Pakistan denies any official involvement.

Lashkar, whose name means "Army of the Pure," was formed to fight Indian rule in the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, a cause the Pakistani state has supported.

Shinde said Pakistan had been informed in advance of the decision to hang Kasab, believed to be about 24.

Security camera footage of Kasab strolling around Mumbai with an automatic weapon and backpack became an iconic image of the attacks which India refers to as 26/11. His trial was the fastest in Indian history for a major terrorism case.

In his confession, Kasab told how he and his accomplices had attended forest camps where they were trained in handling AK-47s, rocket launchers and grenades, and described how he and a fellow attacker, Abu Ismail, were told to fire into crowds at Mumbai’s main railway station before taking hostages and firing at arriving security forces.

After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged the Mumbai raid was planned on its soil and began a trial of some Lashkar members. India has accused Pakistan of being half-hearted in its pursuit of the perpetrators.

India’s last execution was carried out in 2004 for the rape and murder of a schoolgirl.

Since peace talks between India and Pakistan resumed, the countries that have fought three wars have made progress normalizing their economic links and easing visa restrictions. Resolving long standing territorial disputes such as Kashmir remains hobbled by distrust.

— With assistance from Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi.

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