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Dossier Gives Details of Mumbai Attacks

Published: January 6, 2009

NEW DELHI — The exchanges are chilling.

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Times Topics: Terrorism in India

Document: Copy of the Dossier (External link)

“The hostages are of use only as long as you do not come under fire,” a supervisor instructed gunmen by phone during the Mumbai attacks in November. He added: “If you are still threatened, then don’t saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them.”

A gunman replied, “Yes, we shall do accordingly, God willing.”

These are some of the grim details of the Mumbai attacks compiled by the Indian authorities and officially shared with the Pakistani government on Monday.

The compilation seems intended to achieve at least two objectives for India: demonstrate that the attackers were sent from Pakistan, and rally international support for India’s efforts to press Pakistan on its handling of terrorism suspects.

To that end, the dossier, a copy of which was shown to The New York Times, includes previously undisclosed transcripts of telephone conversations, intercepted by Indian authorities, that the 10 gunmen had during their killing spree. They left 163 dead, all the while receiving instructions and pep talks from their handlers across the border.

The dossier also includes photographs of materials found on the fishing trawler the gunmen took to Mumbai: a bottle of Mountain Dew soda packaged in Karachi, pistols bearing the markings of a gun manufacturer in Peshawar, Pakistani-made items like a matchbox, detergent powder and shaving cream.

Beyond that, the dossier chronicles India’s efforts in recent years to persuade Pakistan to investigate suspects involved in terrorist attacks in India and to close terrorist training camps inside Pakistani territory. In the final pages, India demands that Pakistan hand over “conspirators” to face trial in India and comply with its promise to stop terrorist groups from functioning inside its territory.

The dossier was shown this week to diplomats from friendly nations; one described it as “comprehensive,” another as “convincing.”

Although the dossier takes pains not to blame current or former officials in Pakistan’s army or spy agency, Indian officials have consistently hinted at their complicity, at least in training the commando-style fighters who carried out the attack.

On Tuesday, the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, upped the ante, but stopped short of naming any specific entities or individuals. “There is enough evidence to show that, given the sophistication and military precision of the attack, it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistan on Tuesday rejected the Indian allegation. “Scoring points like this will only move us further away from focusing on the very real and present danger of regional and global terrorism,” Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister, said in a statement, according to Reuters. “It is our firm resolve to ensure that nonstate actors do not use Pakistani soil to launch terrorist attacks anywhere in the world.”

Pakistan has said it is examining the information sent by India.

The dossier narrates a journey of zeal, foibles and careful planning, one whose blow-by-blow news coverage was followed by handlers, believed to be in Pakistan, and used to caution the gunmen about the movement of Indian security forces and to motivate them to keep fighting.

“Everything is being recorded by the media. Inflict the maximum damage. Keep fighting. Don’t be taken alive,” a caller said to a gunman in the Oberoi Hotel in the early hours of the three-day rampage.

“Throw one or two grenades at the Navy and police teams, which are outside,” came one instruction to the gunmen inside the Taj Mahal hotel.

“Keep two magazines and three grenades aside and expend the rest of your ammunition,” went another set of instructions to the attackers inside Nariman House, which housed an Orthodox Jewish center.

At the Taj Mahal, the attackers were asked by their counselors whether they had set the hotel on fire; one attacker said he was preparing a mattress for that purpose. At the Oberoi, an attacker asked whether to spare women (“Kill them,” came the terse reply) and Muslims (he was told to release them and kill the rest). At Nariman House, they were told that India’s standing with a major ally, Israel, might be damaged.

“If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel,” one handler said.

According to the investigation into the attack, the 10 gunmen boarded a small boat in Karachi at 8 a.m. on Nov. 22, sailed a short distance before boarding a bigger carrier believed to be owned by an important operative of a banned Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. The next day, the 10 men took over an Indian fishing trawler, killed four crew members, and sailed 550 nautical miles along the Arabian Sea.

Each man carried a weapons pack: a Kalashnikov, a 9-millimeter pistol, ammunition, hand grenades and a bomb containing a military-grade explosive, steel ball bearings and a timer with instructions inscribed in Urdu.

By 4 p.m. on Nov. 26, the trawler approached the shores of Mumbai. The leader of the crew, identified by Indian investigators as Ismail Khan, 25, from a Pakistani town in the Northwest-Frontier Province, contacted his handlers. When darkness set in, the men killed the trawler’s captain and boarded a dinghy, with an engine that investigators said bore marks from a Lahore-based importing company.

They reached Mumbai about 8:30 p.m., and in five teams of two, set upon their targets: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, known as Victoria Terminus, the city’s busiest railway station; a tourist haunt called the Leopold Cafe; the Jewish center in Nariman House; and the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.

They made one mistake, investigators said. They left behind Mr. Khan’s satellite phone; it was recovered by Indian investigators and its photograph was included in the dossier. A GPS device was also recovered from the trawler.

The last telephone transcript in the dossier was at 10:26 p.m. on Nov. 27, between a gunman inside Nariman House and his interlocutor. “Brother you have to fight,” the caller said. “This is a matter of the prestige of Islam.”

By the morning of Nov. 29, Indian forces had killed nine of the fighters.

The sole survivor, Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, is in the custody of the Mumbai police. His interrogation turned up one of the most frightening details: he was part of a cadre of 32 would-be suicide bombers, later joined by three more men. Ten went to Mumbai. Six went to Indian-administered Kashmir, Mr. Kasab told his interrogators.

The dossier says nothing about what happened to the remaining trainees.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.