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Monday, June 5, 2023

26/11 attacks’ handler, once claimed to be dead, arrested in Pak

Years after denying his presence and even claiming he was dead, Pakistan has reportedly arrested Sajid Mir, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative and the main handler of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Mir, involved in the November 2008 siege — when a team of 10 men carried out coordinated attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai, has been sought by both the US and Bharat for over a decade. As many as 170 people of various nationalities — including six Americans were killed in the terror attack.

The case appears to have been brought to a head by Pakistan’s desire to extricate itself from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) international terror-financing watchlist, Nikkei Asia reported. The international watchdog has been keeping Pakistan on its ‘Grey List’, used to monitor and isolate non-compliant countries, since 2018. The Grey List countries are those identified with strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terror financing and proliferation financing, but which have formally committed to working with the task force to make changes under increased monitoring.

At its June 2022 plenary held in Germany, the FATF made the initial determination that Pakistan has ‘substantially completed’ its two action plans, covering 34 items, and warrants an on-site visit to verify that the implementation of Pakistan’s AML (anti-money laundering) and CFT (combatting the financing of terrorism) reforms has begun and is being sustained. FATF added that Pakistan’s “continued political commitment to combating both terror financing & money laundering has led to significant progress”.

FATF had announced that Pakistan could be removed from the Grey List after the on-site inspection, which would be conducted before October.

Hammad Azhar, Pakistan’s former finance minister in the recently ousted government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the man in charge of negotiations with the multilateral watchdog for the past three years, told the media outlet that Pakistan took measures against Mir and other designated terrorists that were “satisfactory” to the FATF.

The FBI poster for Sajid Mir can be seen here. He is believed to be LeT’s chief for ‘external operations’. Apart from being the ‘project manager’ of the 26/11 carnage, Mir is also the brain behind the Denmark bombing operation codenamed ‘Micky Mouse’, referring to the outrage over publishing of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. In 2007, a French court convicted a French national Willie Brigitte for planning terrorist attacks in Australia in 2003 in conjunction with Mir.

A dossier on Mir reveals his connections with the Pakistani deep state, his indoctrination by LeT and how he grew to become the commander-in-charge for western jihadists.

Mir hails from a middle-class ethnic Punjabi family. His father Abdul Majid was a partition refugee who set up a small textiles business in Lahore for a living. His wife was the daughter of a retired Pakistani army officer. Sajid’s indoctrination into the world of hate thus began at home and it was polished by the training at Lashkar-e-Taiba camps where he grew in the ranks and became their commander-in-charge for training of western jihadists. 

With a clear strategy to maximise the global footprint of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mir started scouting for assets that could be used abroad. Brigitte from France, David Headley from the US and Faheem Lodhi from Australia were the discoveries of Mir. Brigitte, in his interrogation, had described Mir as “Uncle Bill” who was fluent in Arabic, Urdu and English. 

Mir had undergone training by Ilyas Kashmiri, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist commander handled by the ISI, who was reportedly killed in a US drone strike in 2011. To give his activities an element of deniability, Mir had set up a restaurant in Bangkok and a textile business in Bangladesh as fronts for his terror activities. To ensure constant oversight for his plans, he leveraged the already existing Lashkar-e-Taiba network of Abdul Rehman Hashim alias Pasha, another member of the Ilyas Kashmiri camp, in Nepal and Bangladesh. Sources said Major Abdul Rahman, an officer of the sixth battalion of the Baloch regiment, had set up his own “Karachi Project“ in Nepal where he trained Muslim youth for bomb-making and infiltration into Bharat through the porous Bharat- Nepal border.

In 2005, both Mir and Pasha found an opportunity to scout for targets in Bharat and they subsequently sent David Headley to do the recce. Headley, with an American passport and looks, was easier to slip through without being detected by the immigration officials. It was the reconnaissance footage and maps provided by Headley that Mir used to plot and guide the ten Pakistani youth who carried out the gruesome 26/11 attacks.

Pakistan’s tango with the West

The Pakistan state has a long history of sponsoring and nurturing Islamic terrorists like Mir, Kashmiri, Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar etc. Its powerful Army considers these jihadis as an extended arm to carry out proxy war against Bharat and other nations like Afghanistan. Whenever international pressure increases on Pakistan, it takes some cosmetic action against these terrorists like placing them in house arrest or judicial custody, but things soon revert to type.

The international community, i.e. the West, knows this. As long as the Pakistani terror factories were only bleeding Bharat and helping US wage its war against the USSR occupation of Afghanistan, they not only turned a blind eye but kept funding and arming the Pakistani state. It was only when Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan turned into a safe haven for Al Qaeda and jihadis closed ranks to strike US on 9/11, did the West start asking some questions of the Pakistani state. But till today, the US considers Pakistan a major ally and defense partner. This is a continuation of the colonial-era British strategy of favoring Muslims (fellow Abrahamics) over ‘heathen’ Hindus, and the role played by British Army in allowing Pakistani marauders to capture PoJK after partition.

This buzz around potential removal of Pakistan from the FATF Grey List should be seen as a snub to Bharat, for its reluctance to toe the Western line in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. For the West, its moral posturing notwithstanding, the only thing that matters is it core civilizational interests and hard power. Bharat’s policy makers (not shills of USA masquerading as analysts in Lutyens’ Delhi) would do well to keep that in mind.

(With IANS inputs)

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  1. Pakistan has fooled the International communities by arresting Sajid Mir. It has awarded safe custody to Mir. By providing a safe haven to this notorious LeT criminal under the jurisdiction of judicial system, Pakistan has shielded Mir from being extradited to India or USA for trial of killing more than 147 people in 26/11 attack in Mumbai. Who can say that Pakistan will nourture Sajid Mir to hatch new plots of terror strikes in India to off-load the focus on its economic downfall and internal strifes between terror groups & Govt. forces?


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