Gunman in Last Year's Mumbai Terror Strikes Pleads Guilty
By Anjana Pasricha
20 July 2009
In India, a Pakistani man accused of mounting last year's terror attacks in Mumbai has pled guilty in court, reversing his earlier plea of innocence. The terror strikes killed 166 people, and raised tensions between India and Pakistan.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, made the dramatic confession in a special court in Mumbai, standing up and telling the judge he wanted to plead guilty to his crime.
Kasab is the only gunman who was caught the assault mounted by 10 terrorists on multiple targets that included five-star hotels, a rail station and a Jewish Center last November in Mumbai.
It is unclear what prompted Kasab's confession. The public prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, says lawyers were taken aback because he had pleaded not guilty when the trial began in May.
"Of course today we are very surprised that abruptly Kasab has taken this stand that he would like to confess his guilt," he said. "In fact, I was personally very shocked, which we never thought because Kasab right from beginning of the trial [adopted] different practices. Initially he said he is juvenile, later on he said he is innocent."
Lawyers say that in a statement recorded in court Kasab gave details of his journey along with other gunmen from Pakistan on a boat, and the attacks they carried out after landing in Mumbai.
The public prosecutor says it is up to the court to accept the plea of guilt, and his account of the attacks.
Kasab has been charged with murder and waging war against India. Police say he and an accomplice opened indiscriminate fire on commuters at a local rail station, killing many people, and senior police officers. Videotape footage on the day of the attack showed him carrying an assault rifle.
Lawyers say if Kasab's confession is not reversed it could bolster India's case that a banned terror group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan was behind the attack.
The attacks brought a peace dialogue between the two countries to a halt as India blamed Islamabad for allowing its soil to be used for terrorism against India.
Islamabad has acknowledged that Kasab is a Pakistani citizen and the attack was partly plotted on its soil, and is conducting its own investigation. But India says Pakistan has not taken sufficient measures to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice, and has linked normalization of ties between the two countries to concrete steps taken to clamp down on those guilty of terror strikes targeting India.
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