India has hanged the lone survivor of the Pakistan-based militant squad responsible for a rampage through Mumbai that killed 166 people, sparking celebrations days before the fourth anniversary of the assault on the country’s financial capital.
Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistan national, was the enduring image of the bloody assault, which traumatised India and raised fears of copycat attacks on foreign cities.
Pictures of the boyish gunman wearing a black T-shirt and toting an AK-47 rifle as he strode through Mumbai’s train station were published around the world.
Kasab was executed yesterday morning amid great secrecy, underscoring the political sensitivity of the 26 November, 2008, massacre, which still casts a pall over relations between Pakistan and India.
“All the police officers and personnel who lost their lives in the battle against the terrorists have today been served justice,” interior minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said after Kasab was hanged in a jail in Pune, southeast of Mumbai.
Kasab was charged with 86 offences, including murder and waging war against the Indian state, in a charge-sheet running to more than 11,000 pages.
It was the first time a capital sentence had been carried out in India since 2004. There was cele-bration on the streets of Mumbai and other cities as news of the execution spread, but militant groups in Pakistan reacted angrily.
Some Indians held up photo-graphs of Kasab with a rope noose superimposed over his head.
Attack survivor Vishnu Zende, who was working at Mumbai’s train station where nearly 60 people were killed, said the execution brought it all back.
“When I heard the news of Kasab’s execution today, I remembered those horrifying moments of the attack,” he said. “My eyes were filled with tears.”
An effigy of Kasab was hung by the neck from the entrance gate of the station by a right-wing local party. A crowd of about 30 shouted “Pakistan murdabad” [death to Pakistan] as they beat the effigy, which had shoes hung around its shoulders.
In Pakistan, a senior commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, which India blames for the assault on Mumbai, called Kasab a hero and said he would inspire more attacks.
“To die like Kasab is the dream of every fighter,” the commander said.
The Pakistan Taleban said they were shocked by the hanging. “There is no doubt that it’s very shocking news and a big loss that a Muslim has been hanged on Indian soil,” spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said.
Kasab was buried inside the prison where he was hanged. He was quiet and seemed nervous before the execution, a prison guard said.
He prayed and asked if his family had been informed, which they had.
India said it would hand over the body to Pakistan if asked.
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia extradited an Indian-born militant accused of being a key plotter in the Mumbai attacks. Police say Sayeed Zabiuddin Ansari helped co-ordinate the attack from a “control room” in the Pakistani city of Karachi.