Mumbai Gunman Hanged Before Fourth Anniversary of Attack

Mumbai Gunman Kasab Hanged on Four Year Anniversary of Attack
A file photo from May 2010 shows Indian newspapers on a stall carrying the stories of the death sentence verdict of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab. Photographer: Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani militant Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman caught alive during the 2008 guerrilla assault on Mumbai, was hanged early today in India, as the two nations 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 the Yerwada Jail in nearby Pune. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab’s mercy petition on Nov. 5. The hanging was the first time India has carried out the death penalty in eight years.

“We have allowed the rule of law to prevail in our country and similarly we hope and expect the rule of law will prevail in Pakistan as well,” Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said in televised comments, a reference to pursuing those India blames for orchestrating the strike.

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

The November 2008 commando-style assault 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.

Kashmir Struggle

In a shift in strategy for groups attacking India, Kasab and his accomplices’ targeted business executives and tourists as well as local commuters during the strike on Mumbai, which is home to the country’s largest companies and its stock market.

India has repeatedly stressed that a return to normal relations with Pakistan depends on a thorough and successful probe of those who plotted the Mumbai raid.

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. India has criticized Pakistan for failing to prosecute senior Lashkar members, including founder Hafiz Saeed.

“The operatives have been caught or killed but the masterminds of the attack are still at large and unfortunately that means they will probably never be brought to justice,” said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Pakistan Informed

Pakistan condemns all terrorism and is willing to cooperate with countries in its region to eradicate it, Moazzam Ali Khan, a foreign office spokesman, told the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

Shinde said Pakistan had been informed in advance of the decision to hang Kasab, believed to be 24, and that his remains would remain in India as Pakistan has not asked for his body.

The CNN-IBN television channel reported today that Kasab was buried inside the jail grounds in Pune.

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

Not a ‘Hero’

In his initial confession, which was later retracted, Kasab told how he and his accomplices had attended forest camps where they were trained in handling AK-47s, rocket launchers and grenades. He 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.

“I don’t think there will be any harsh reaction from any religious or militant organizations in Pakistan over the execution of Kasab,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad and the author of a book on Islamic militant organizations in Pakistan. “No one is going to make him a hero in Pakistan, nobody can afford to do that.”

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.

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

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