The arrest of Sayeed Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jindal, at New Delhi airport late last month is a major breakthrough in the investigation of the deadliest terror attack in the world since 9/11. Abu Jindal was one of the masterminds of the November 2008 attack on the city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed, including six Americans. He is already confessing to his role and implicating Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate directly in controlling the attack as it went down.
The November 2008 attack by ten Lashkar e Tayyiba (LeT) terrorists on multiple targets in Mumbai, India was the most significant and innovative terrorist attack since 9/11. It marked the maturation of LeT from a Punjabi-based Pakistani terror group targeting India exclusively to a member of the global Islamic jihad targeting the enemies of al Qaeda: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel, and Hindu India. LeT used cell phones and GPS technology to terrorize an entire city and grab global attention for three days. LeT’s masterminds ran the operation in real time from a headquarters in Pakistan, even issuing death sentences to innocents.
LeT’s masterminds ran the [2008 Mumbai] operation in real time from a headquarters in Pakistan, even issuing death sentences to innocents.
Abu Jindal, an Indian citizen traveling with a Pakistani passport, was in the control room in Karachi in 2008 talking on the phone to the ten terrorists. He gave them advice on where to look for more victims in the Taj Hotel, for example, and instructed them when to murder their hostages. His voice was recorded by the Indian authorities listening in on the phone calls and has since been replayed in chilling detail by the Indian police for all to hear.
According to press reports from India, Jindal was arrested on June 21 after being deported from Saudi Arabia to India. The arrest operation was a joint counter-terrorism effort by India, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Abu Jindal was in the Kingdom recruiting and training new LeT volunteers from the enormous Pakistani diaspora in the Gulf countries. He was allegedly in the final stages of a “massive” new terror plot. Abu Jindal has also been linked to other attacks in India including the bombing of the Mumbai metro and train system in 2006 that killed over 180.
Abu Jindal has told the Indians that two members of the ISI were also in the control room, both allegedly majors in the Pakistani army. This confirms the longstanding accusation that the 2008 plot was orchestrated and conducted with the assistance of the ISI. An American, David Headley, who worked for LeT and did the reconnaissance for the attack has said the same thing. So has the only survivor of the attack force, Amir Kasab, who has been convicted of mass murder in India.
But because Abu Jindal was actually in the control room in Karachi his accusation is even more powerful. If the press reports about Abu Jindal’s accusations are confirmed then the ISI was involved directly in the decision to murder Americans. So far the Indian government has publicly confirmed only that his testimony points to state sponsorship of the attack without providing details of his confessions.
The Saudi role in capturing Abu Jindal is also significant. Riyadh is Islamabad’s closest ally and the ISI has very strong links with its Saudi counterparts. The Pakistani community in the Kingdom and the Gulf states has long been a major source of the LeT’s finances. If the Kingdom is now ready to act against LeT then the group will face some financial trouble.
But not yet trouble at home. More than three years after the attack LeT has been sanctioned by the United Nations and the United States but has paid no serious price for its attack in Mumbai. It operates freely in Pakistan and has continuing connections with the Pakistani intelligence service and army. Its founder and leader Hafeez Saeed has a $10 million bounty on his head from the U.S., but regularly appears on Pakistani television and routinely addresses large anti-American rallies organized with the help of the ISI. LeT has a global presence, with cells throughout South Asia, the Persian Gulf, and into Europe, Australia and North America. With al Qaeda on the ropes, LeT, with the help of its Pakistani backers, is now probably the most dangerous terror group in the world.
Jonathan D. Pollack will moderate a discussion with Ambassador Frank Wisner on potential nuclear conflicts in Asia and shifting U.S. nuclear policy on April 1.