MUMBAI (Reuters) - The gunman captured during the attacks on Mumbai said he had undergone months of commando-style training in an Islamist militant camp in Pakistan, two senior officials involved in the investigation said.
The training was organised by the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, and conducted by a former member of the Pakistani army, a police officer close to the interrogation said, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to give his name.
“They underwent training in several phases, which included training in handling weapons, bomb making, survival strategies, survival in a marine environment and even dietary habits,” another senior officer told Reuters.
The Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba made its name fighting Indian rule in Kashmir but was also blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 that brought the nuclear-armed neighbours close to war.
Lashkar had had close links to Pakistan’s military spy agency in the past, security experts say, although the government in Islamabad insists it too is fighting the group and other Islamist extremists based on its soil.
Azam Amir Kasav, a clean-shaven, 21-year-old with fluent English who was photographed during the attack wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the Versace logo, said his team took orders from “their command in Pakistan”, police officials said.
Ten militants arrived on the Mumbai shoreline in a dinghy on Wednesday before splitting into four groups and embarking on a killing spree that left 183 people dead.
They then held off India’s elite commandos for up to 60 hours in two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre in the city. Nine of the gunmen were killed.
Commandos say the men obviously had military-style training and knew the layout of the hotels extremely well.
Police denied reports the men had rented an apartment in Mumbai or even stayed at the Taj hotel before the attack, but said they appeared to have had some support from locals.
“They appeared to have known the hotel well, but then the construction layout of the hotel is available on their website -- complete with the levels, fire-exit plan and everything,” a deputy police commissioner who declined to be named said.
More difficult to plan without local help was assault on the Jewish religious and social centre at Nariman House in the city.
“Nariman House is not even on the main road,” the police officer said. “One can’t locate it right away if one didn’t have specific directions.”
INDIAN FISHING TRAWLER
Two coast guard officials told Reuters the militants appeared to have hijacked an Indian fishing trawler which had sailed from western India on Nov. 13 with five crew members on board.
“They may have thought using an Indian boat would reduce the possibility of raising suspicion and detection,” one of the coast guards told Reuters.
One crew member was found on the boat with his hands tied behind his back and his throat cut, the others may have been thrown overboard, officials said.
The coast guards said they had recovered a satellite phone from the rubber dinghy and a GPS device which indicated that the attackers had hoped to return to Pakistan after their mission.
“The GPS coordinates indicate they had charted a return course to Karachi,” one said.
The Hindu newspaper also quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying that an email claiming responsibility for the attack was sent to Indian media from a computer in Pakistan.
The email, ostensibly sent on behalf of a previously unknown Indian group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen, was written in Hindi but contained spelling errors, the paper said.