Retracing the Steps of a Confessed Mumbai Terrorist


November 22, 2011
As the additional commissioner and chief of the crime branch for the Mumbai police, Deven Bharti responded to the siege at the Taj Hotel while the attacks were underway and interviewed Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only survivor among the 10 gunmen, shortly after he was caught. Here, he recounts what he learned while investigating David Coleman Headley’s movements as he scouted targets in Mumbai. Bharti calls Headley a “compulsive liar” and says that there were many inconsistencies between the confessed terrorist’s interrogation and the facts Bharti’s team discovered on the ground. “I think to boost his [accomplishments], he had sometimes overrated his work,” he tells FRONTLINE. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Aug. 1, 2011.

One thing is clear from having followed [Headley’s] trail: [He] is good at using and manipulating people. … What is your assessment of Headley in terms of his training, his abilities, his craft?

I won’t rate him very high. … Whatever he has gathered here, he was only good at using people.

Tell me about that skill, though, because that’s a pretty important skill for someone.

We talked to so many fellows whom he interacted with. They all told one thing: that he was very charming. He will crack some jokes, and he will talk about girls. He was flamboyant — sort of an image he projected.

But most of them couldn’t get anything from him. In fact, he will take out everything from them. …

What was Rahul Bhatt’s usefulness to Headley?

“I don’t think [David Headley] was close [to anyone in Mumbai]. He was very opportunist, and he was purely in the business of extracting information and using the other person. I don’t think people like Headley could get close to anybody.”

… I think he used him for women mostly, and going for social parties.

Do you think he also saw Rahul Bhatt, [the son of a well-known Indian director,] as someone who could introduce him to people with influence? …

… Basically he wanted to have someone who can put him into the social circle. There, if he can find someone of his use, then he can make use of them. Otherwise I don’t think Rahul could have given him much.

Is it true that Headley called Rahul Bhatt shortly before the attacks and told him to stay out of South Mumbai?

Rahul denies that.

Because Headley said that in the trial.

… This is my feeling, that [Headley is] a compulsive liar. … He has lied [about] so many things that if you read his interrogation report and all we have verified from the ground, there are so many dichotomies you will find.

I think to boost his [accomplishments], he had sometimes overrated his work also.

… You said that the choice of the landing site [in Mumbai] was good operational work. What impressed you about that?

If you go in that area, there are a lot of boats in the evening that keep coming there. It is in the heart of the city, and if any fishing boat comes and lands there, or a small dinghy, nobody will notice generally. …

Operationally, that is the best location, because all the targets which were selected were very close proximity. …

… Now, he found that because he hired a fisherman who took him around, right?

If you go to the jetty as a tourist, you can hire any boat, and if you start talking with them, they will tell about what the topography of the city [is] and all of the important things, milestones and all of this. …

So what [Headley] did was not the greatest spy or something like that. … Whatever is done as a tourist anybody can do, like filming the interiors of the Hotel Taj. … There was nothing great in that, but what made it important was that everything that [Lashkar-i-Taiba] wanted, he did that.

So even if it wasn’t that technically sophisticated, it was incredibly important for designing this attack to have an American with that kind of cover. …

Definitely. You know from the enforcement agencies’ and police agencies’ point of view, nobody will initially believe that anybody with Caucasian features will be a jihadi terrorist. …

But after this attack, from a policing point of view, I can say it is a watershed. From investigators’ point of view now, even if I find you shooting somewhere, I will ask you at least: “Mister, may I know your name please, and can I have your passport please?”

There’s a whole new attitude toward that kind of thing.

They said this has made the investigating agency and police agencies much more alert and with a little broader vision now, because terrorism and terrorists have no religion, no racial features now. Anybody can be indoctrinated and used as an important weapon. …

… Trying to understand what makes Headley tick, his mentality, you said you felt that [his] schooling was important. In what way?

The formative years of Headley [were] in Pakistan, and all his schooling was done mostly in Pakistan. If you go and fetch the textbooks of history especially, you will find the India propaganda matter in abundance there, and especially the Kashmir issue is raised. And many things are taught which are not correct factually. It smacks of their nationalism and basically the Kashmir issue.

If you read Headley’s interrogation report, he says that the Kashmir issue was the one which was very close to his heart. So this is my belief, that if in the formative years he would have been in the U.S. or any other country where I think they teach you the correct history, I think we would have Mr. Headley [be] a different person.

During one of his interrogations, … he said that he liked everything about India. He liked the people; he liked the food; he liked the girls, Bollywood. But he didn’t like India because of Kashmir. Do you think that’s true, or what does that say about this guy’s personality if he said that?

As I told you, he’s a compulsive liar and very deceptive. And I think if you speak so many lies, you forget what you have lied [about] earlier, so then comes the contradiction, and that is true in Headley’s case also. …

… The ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence] was very interested in [Headley]. During the trial it was very interesting to see that when he made contact with Rajaram Rege, [an activist] connected to [radical Hindu political party] Shiv Sena, there’s a flurry of e-mails where he consulted with [Pakistani intelligence officer] Major Iqbal and [Lashkar-i-Taiba commander] Sajid Mir. … What was [Headley] trying to do? …

Basically he tried to procure a pass for attending a function of Shiv Sena. … For Shiv Sena, … the building itself and the leaders of Shiv Sena are the target not only of LeT [Lashkar-i-Taiba] and all other agencies, even in ISI hit list and all of the other terrorist organizations.

So if anybody is getting details about that, definitely the ISI and all those were generally interested in that, and that’s why he tried to befriend them. But he was a very lowly fellow, so he didn’t have much access to the top and others.

Rajaram Rege, what was his connection to Shiv Sena exactly?

He was a member there, and he was looking after some activities there, but he was not in a very high chair.

But because they also have their security arrangements and all, they don’t allow anybody to come close — plus we also provide a lot of security to their leaders and their building — so whatever little they could get through Headley, they were generally interested in that. …

Do you think that Sajid Mir was ever in the military or the ISI?

Appears to be. We look at the operational capabilities, look at his influence in government agencies there. It appears to be at some point [in] time he must be part of some agency or organization dealing with security of that particular state. If not, then he would be very close to the powers to be. …

You told me that India had been concerned about Sajid Mir for a long time. Can you tell me why and what his reputation is among those of you who are experts in this field?

… He comes across as a very sharp fellow, very good organizer, having very good knowledge of all the tactics and tradecraft, organizational capacity, the talent of spotting.

I think that with David Headley, the moment he saw [him], he thought, this is the best asset we could get. … So he used, pushed Headley to the maximum. In five years he made five, six trips to India, and he made an office there. He had accommodation, because he knew that sitting here he can fetch much more information than any other guy could do.

Besides his contacts in their establishment, if you see the amount of [funding] they get, the amount of other resources, if you read … at least the interrogation report that the number of safe houses they maintained alone in Karachi, it is just not possible for somebody, without having mandate from their agency, to organize on such a massive scale. …

We’ve all heard those horrible tapes where Sajid Mir directs the terrorists here in Mumbai and even at some point speaks — and torments really — the victim who he later ordered killed in the Chabad House. When did you realize or suspect or detect that that voice on the phone was Sajid Mir?

… After we started investigating, we started hearing the voice, and if you heard the conversation, the terms and terminology [that were] used, again, [it] supports my viewpoint that he’s one of the agency’s guy, because all their typical tradecraft words are used in the conversation. …

… What are some of the examples of the tradecraft terms he used in those intercepts that made you think that he had been affiliated with the military or the ISI, Sajid Mir?

Tradecraft terms, like “put your” — minor words — “take position,” you know, “prep,” “arm,” “grenade” and “throw,” especially when he is looking at the general.

He suddenly said that … “Forces marching from this side took other corner position.” He smoothed them. These are the terms. I’m using the English word, but if you tell in the typical Punjabi, you can find out exactly what tradecraft words are there.

… When we started listening to this voice, then we showed it to [Mumbai attack gunman Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab], he said that this is [an] important guy. We wanted [him] to know that we had a photograph of this guy, so we showed it to Kasab. He said, “Yeah, this is the guy.” … 

Was it Sajid Mir?

It was Sajid Mir. We had a photograph.

Is it the same photo that we’ve seen in the Interpol, or some other photograph?

The same photo, but he identified this fellow, and he said, “Yeah, this is the guy, but he cannot be arrested.” …

[That] he was so confident that this guy cannot be arrested again proves my point how important this guy is to the agency, that this is the point that we realized that … the central agencies were also part of it. …

… So when Kasab identified him as a lead person in the plot, it made you more and more convinced that there was involvement beyond Lashkar as far as what?

He’s a part of ISI, which is my gut feeling. …

… In 2001, the first time the FBI got a warning about [Headley] being an extremist, he said: “I’m not a terrorist. I’m working for the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration],” which he was, and he said also: “I have connections to the ISI. I have a relative.” … Did you ever hear about him having a family connection of the ISI?

Yeah, I read that two or three places, and it is generally talked about. …

… Getting back to Headley and Mumbai, there are some things he did that I thought were strange. Why do you think he rented a room with a family as opposed to getting his own place?

Mumbai is a very cosmopolitan city. Here at least nobody is bothered about who is staying next door. So he was staying as a paying guest there, and the lady, that Mrs. Kriplani, was alone there on that floor, so he had a good accommodation near the gymnasium. He was very fond of going to the gymnasium, and he got [it] at a good rate. …

You know, if you are doing some business [somewhere], you should have some permanent address. So from that purpose he secured that address.

… What did [Mrs. Kriplani] tell you about him?

She’s a very old lady, and she was not much more worried about [him] other than [that] her money comes in regularly, so she was not even looking at what he’s up to, what he’s doing. …

He was very charming. He used to talk to her very nicely. He used to pay the rent very regularly and leave no chance for any complaint. …

The Taj obviously was the centerpiece of this attack. … They start with the idea we’re going to attack the Taj, more as a classic Fedayeen raid, and then it grows into this much bigger thing. But [Headley] obviously focused on the Taj. He spent a lot of time there. Have you got any sense that he focused on any particular employees? …

The lobby area you can go and have a seat for four, five hours. Then there are restaurants on the ground floor and the first floor, and there are parties always going on in the Crystal Room, which he was especially targeted for. 

The Crystal Room?

Crystal Room. Sajid Mir told him that [there were] a lot of conferences where software experts all over the world, they’ve been organizing. …

If you move in that area of the foyer, the tourists [are always] doing filming. Nobody is bothered. …

[Headley] tried to show that he is very interested in this heritage structure, and he just want to shoot [film] it, that he has not come across any such beautiful piece of structure in his life. So he was just bragging about it, and obviously the employees there will be very honored with the fact that he’s praising this structure. …

So Headley, even though it’s mainly because he’s Caucasian and a tourist, he did a good job helping them [with the Taj]. What about his scouting at the other places? … What is your sense of his scouting the Oberoi [Hotel] and how they chose it, what role he played in that?

… Oberoi is the other [similar] target, another monument, and a lot of foreigners are visiting every day in that five-star hotel, so definitely there was a real plan to strike, and it was selected as a target since the beginning.

… Did he also talk to people there? What did he do at the Oberoi? He stayed there as well, didn’t he?

Similarly that he has done mostly the survey, and the Oberoi, the structure is very simple in comparison to Taj. …

Again, the maximum casualty was in the restaurant, … where they kidnapped all the fellows and asked them to move upstairs and kill on the top floor for maximum destruction in [the] first half an hour.

That was their instructions to all of them: to inflict maximum injury during the first half an hour and then take a stronghold position and try to linger on as long as they can.

… Were you able to reconstruct what Headley did at the Oberoi in terms of who he interacted with or what he did?

Not much, … because during interrogation also we have found that he concentrated mostly on Taj. …

But the Nariman [Chabad] House — which most of the residents of Mumbai will not know exactly where it is because it’s very small — he recced that [scouted out the location]; he identified that target. I think he was tasked specifically for that. …

Headley could locate that particular target and he could guide through his video coverage to all the terrorists who directly reached there and entered into that building. And it’d still be a major task because locating that building in the shanties there, it is very difficult. … The location of Nariman House itself, you know, the common man of that area also never knew that this structure exist there.”

… This target was so symbolic. … It was a very soft target, and nobody would have thought the most horrifying incident would take place there, when all the captives were killed. …

Headley did not visit Nariman House; he did the recce outside. Why do you think he didn’t go inside? …

There were security guards. I think he didn’t want to take any risk, because the rabbi was there; his family was there. So I think initially he must not have gone very well prepared for that. …

The structure is very simple. … The staircase is there, and the rooms are one flat on each floor, so I don’t think structure-wise it is very complicated. …

But what he did precisely is that he located the GPS coordinates of that area. …

It’s kind of a shantytown, kind of hard to find, right?

… He located the GPS coordinates of that building, and even [Leopold Café] he located the GPS instrument, and we took out the data, [and] all these coordinates were very well positioned on that. …

So with these GPS coordinates and this precise mapping, David Coleman Headley is overcoming a very huge limitation of these young men, right? One of the problems with these young men is their knowledge of Mumbai?

This was their first time [in Mumbai]. … They were given some local terms, like if they came out to the Cuffe Parade jetty, [and] they had to reach that VT [Victoria Terminus] junction, they told the cab driver, “Take us through Azad Maidan.” So these details Headley had noted, and it was briefed to them. …

We’ve been talking a lot about Sajid Mir, but ultimately what we’re talking about here, too, is the ISI, whether or not Sajid Mir is in it. There’s this other huge figure, … Major Iqbal, right?

Iqbal. Right.

What’s your impression of Major Iqbal, his role in this plot? And what [are] the important things he did as far as directing Headley and creating the target selection and the architecture of the plot?

If you do a postmortem of this operation, Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal are the two key figures who planned this operation. And they planned to the minutest detail of it.

One simple example I will give you: All those 10 terrorists were wearing a Hindu sacred thread on their wristband. Headley on his last visit before the attack, he procured the sacred thread in front [of the] temple in Mumbai, and all the terrorists were instructed how to tie it before they disembarked from the boat Kuber. …

Why was that thread important?

Initially they were discussing escape routes, either through bus station or railway station. But later they found out that it is very difficult. Then they decided that they have to fight until death. After that, Hafiz Saeed came and lectured them that if you fight until death, you will achieve all those which are promised by the Holy Book and all.

So once they decided that these fellows will get killed, they thought that it would divert the attention of investigation agency. All the 10 terrorists were given identity cards bearing Hindu and Indian names and Indian institutions with Indian colleges and schools they were studying. To appear to show that they are Hindus by religion, all of them were wearing sacred thread. …

Whose idea was that?

This was Sajid Mir.

But it came from Headley?

Headley was tasked for it, and [he] procured all those sacred documents, sacred thread and took it. It is not very difficult to find these things in Pakistan. Also, you can [get] just a cotton thread. …

Why do you think Major Iqbal chose these international targets where Westerners would die, like the Chabad House and the Leopold Café? …

I think it was told to them that they have to take revenge [for] Palestine. That was what Kasab told us — that there were a lot atrocities going on there, so … this target has been selected. That was told to all the terrorists. …

So why is the ISI deciding to kill Americans and kill Jews? This is the ISI, after all, making these decisions, right?

Look, that’s [what] I’m telling. Their plan [was] flawed initially because when we apprehended one terrorist, which was not supposed to be, otherwise we all would have been looking for these names inside the country, because even [in] the mail they had claimed the mujahideen has taken responsibility of this attack. They fabricated each and every thing.

Only thing went wrong when Kasab was not killed in the fighting, and he was arrested. When he started spilling the beans, I think all their ideas were exposed. … They didn’t think initially that their communication between the handlers and the terrorists would be intercepted at any point of time. …

… There’s a lot of people … [who] will feel that the United States has not told the whole story about Headley, particularly as it relates to him being an informant [for the DEA]. … It came out in trial that he started doing counterterror work for them, and there’s real mystery as to how long that work lasted, what it consisted of, and whether some of the warnings that came to the Indian authorities in 2008 may have had something to do with him. What do you think about that?

… I am not aware how exactly this operation was run. But whatever we got, whatever that agency felt at that point of time, we have to believe in them, because we also run operations, [and] sometimes they go haywire. There are agents who double-cross; many times I have no means to verify that he’s double-crossing me.

So we have to believe in the person or the agency or the group within the agency who is working on him, that it was the best decision they could make whatever they had to share, … because definitely they must have weighed the pros and cons of that, and accordingly, [at] that point of time they made a decision absolutely, and we should not have any regrets or complaints against any particular agency at that point. …

[Editor’s Note: Headley testified that he stopped working for the DEA in September 2002. But the agency says it funded only one of his trips to Pakistan, and deactivated him as an informant in March 2002.]

… Hemant Karkare, [the chief of the Maharashtra police Anti-Terrorism Squad who was killed during the attacks] acts on intelligence when he goes to the Taj and makes all these [security] recommendations. That was September 2008?

Somewhere [around] that time, because the local police hardened the security of that area.

… Could you just describe that and say why it was toned down, as you understand?

… Regarding that there could be attack on Taj, there was intelligence, … and we had heard in the security of the Taj Hotel, our deputy commissioner of police had specifically visited the place and convened a meeting of their security officials and chalked out a detailed plan for the security of that perimeter.

The plan was put in place for I think two and a half months, and there was very strict checking in [at every] entry point and exit point and behind the Taj building itself.

But we were told that [the hotel] had some issue with their hospitality department, and they found it very inconvenient — all the guests, you know? And they took a unilateral decision to tone it down. …

… Do you have the sense that [Headley] figured out the routes to each of the targets from where they landed?

… Definitely he visited each and every place and mapped the routes on the GPS coordinates. … We saw all the things plotted on the Garmin map, all the coordinates which [were] saved much before.

And for handling this GPS and all, they took a dry run in Karachi. The data was also saved on that GPS, which we could recover.

… What was Headley’s role in surveying Victoria Station, and what did the choice of Victoria Station add to this mix of targets in this spectacular attack?

Victoria Station, initially they missed the target by two and a half hours. They were delayed due to the heavy rain, and they waited on the dinghy. Otherwise they were scheduled to reach there around 7:30 p.m., which at that time there was a maximum rush.

If they would have reached [the station at] that time, the casualty figure would have been much higher, so that’s why — to inflict maximum number of casualties — the target was selected. You’ll find tens of thousands of people around 7:30 p.m. or so, because that is the time where [people] leave the office and go back to suburbs for their home. …

What did Headley do at the Victoria Station?

He just surveyed the area, and he found one place on the first floor where he thought a stronghold position can be taken for sometime.

But he also initially … was looking at it as a place to escape, right? …

Strategically it was not a good stronghold option, … so when they couldn’t maintain their stronghold because police started firing, they left that place, and they didn’t know where to go.

They had a map, which showed them how to go to Marine Drive road, which is [Queen’s] Necklace road. So they came out of the Foot Over Bridge [FOB], they found all the cars; … they’re looking for where the keys are, [and they’re] not there in the car. They couldn’t find one.

Then they walked around in the Cama Hospital, which is another target where they reached. … Again they raced to the top and tried to maintain the stronghold option for quite sometime, until they faced retaliation, and then they had to run away from there.

Did Headley become close to anyone in Mumbai? …

No, I don’t think he was close. He was very opportunist, and he was purely in the business of extracting information and using the other person. I don’t think people like Headley could get close to anybody.

But he certainly got to know this city extremely well and seemed to enjoy himself.

… Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, a very open city. It welcomes each and every person who has come from abroad or from any other part of the country. …

He loved the evening parties and Bollywood things, which [was] where Mr. Bhatt would take him.

… Are we talking about decadent, drug-using-type parties?

No, we didn’t get any evidence on that. …

He did a lot of socializing. … Was he actively out there womanizing the way he has all his life?

Not any particular woman, but definitely he was interested in a lot of women. …

You said that [Headley] didn’t know about the Leopold Café until it happened, but he had scouted the Leopold Café, right?

He has said that he was video shooting the Colaba police station, the local police station in that area. He was just shooting and moving toward Taj, [and] the Café Leopold you see on the right side.

The Café Leopold is a very old café, and a lot of expatriates meet there and sit, chat and spend a lot of time there. He [had] just [a] short clip of that place.

It must have struck Sajid Mir or Major Iqbal that this could be a good position target. That’s why they decided that two of the guys will initially do this indiscriminate firing there, and then they will go and meet the fellows in Taj.

It seems that Headley, being a Westerner, was able to focus them on places where they could kill as many people from as many countries as possible.

That was true. … The whole motive behind the attack was to internationalize the issue and to show their capability. Once they show their capability, a lot of funds pour in for the organization from different quarters. So if you do any event as spectacular as Mumbai attack, you get a lot of funds. …

… If you could just tell us a bit about your experience that night, starting from when you heard about the attacks.

We were in an operation against an organized crime syndicate thing near the airport. We had some information we were trying to work out there. We got some information that there was a firing incident at the Taj. Our initial reaction was it could be any of the organized crime syndicate retaliating.

Then one after another, … there were [at] four or five places the same incidents. Then we definitely thought terrorist attack, so we called off that operation and rushed back toward [the] city. By [that] time, the roads and everything were giving a deserted look.

We reached [the] control room — they are in this office — and there we found … five places that have been targeted, and there is continuous fighting going on, and entrances have been locked.

So there with my officers and men, we went toward Cama Hospital. …When we reached here initially, we got a call from some [officer at the] central agency that there is some suspicious number, and we have to work on that. …

We started looking, try to locate that number, because initially it was not known. … Finally we could locate that this number is for inside Taj. … Then at one point of time, we did contact with our officers. [A] senior officer went inside, and then we entered the Taj operation. …

At this point, the terrorists were where at the Taj?

[Inside] the Tower Wing they had a small skirmish with the Marine Commandos, and they retreated toward [the] old Heritage Wing. When we went there, I was told [a] mobile handset [was] lying [there]. When I picked up that phone, there was a call from 120 number. …

We just switched on the phone, and I started talking, and I pretended to be a waiter of the hotel. And in fact I tried to get the location if any handler is staying somewhere near in the city or this hotel.

What did you say?

… I introduced myself as a waiter, and I told him that one of their friends is seriously wounded. The other side wanted me to give the phone to him so that he can talk to them and ensure whatever I am telling him is correct.

I told him that he’s not in a position to speak because he’s bleeding profusely, [and] I want to find out what I should do with him, because he has told [me] that he should be taken out. …

He said that he could come near swimming pool, that the guys will be there. … Then I realized that this guy is not in the hotel at least. After that, the phone was disconnected.

What language was he speaking?

It was definitely Punjabi. …

What was the tone, the emotion, the style of the way this person spoke to you?

It was like any commander directing his fellows.

So the phone goes dead, and then what happens?

After that, we all sat down with the National Security Guard senior officers, and then we decided how to flush out these [terrorists], and two teams were formed. One was assigned for the Heritage Wing and another for the Tower.

Then NSG [commandos] started from the top. … One by one, each and every floor was cleared and checked that nobody is there in the Tower Wing.

Next, the operation continued in the Heritage Wing, because it is a very difficult structure. Finally, the third night when all four of them were in the Crystal Room, they were located. NSG commandos surrounded them from all sides and cornered them into Wasabi, the Japanese restaurant in the corner. …

At some point they were up in the higher floors, right, because was their plan to set an IED [improvised explosive device] to blow up the main floor?

Yeah, What they did was leave, went from the first floor, and they went up to the sixth floor and fifth floor. They put an IED in the center room. By that point of time, they had taken some hostages, and they tied their hands and others, and by the time IED blasted, they all smoked. …

After [that] they put [the] whole fifth floor on fire. They pulled out all the bed sheets and all, and they put it on fire. And then again slowly they climbed down, and in the Crystal Hall they make their way.

So they went back down and finally took final refuge in the Wasabi, [the Japanese restaurant]. Was that a plan because of the configuration of the Wasabi?

Yeah. … They were around the staircase and in the “C” shape, 3 feet of stone structure. Finally we blasted them out of there, the whole room put on fire, and then they were smoked out.

Is that where they died, in that area?

All four died there.

You must have not slept for three days.

Three days nobody could sleep.

When did you know that the calls were being intercepted and people were able to listen to those conversations between handlers and terrorists in real time?

I won’t be able to give you much details because it was a covert operation, but definitely the moment they started speaking, we could intercept the call. …

Did you have a command post in particular?

In the lobby area we created a command post there. …

… When did it strike you that you’re dealing with something other than just terrorists and chaos, like these people might have some military training behind them?

That was very clear the moment we started interrogating Kasab. He told us all the facts, because Kasab was trained [to] die while fighting. He was not trained for interrogation. He never thought he would face [an interrogation] situation, and even though he was given training how to deflect the interrogation techniques, mentally he was not prepared.

The moment he was captured alive, I think within a half an hour … he started speaking the truth. And we corroborated with the facts. The moment he said the dinghy was left there, we took over their dinghy. The Coast Guard choppers went and found the boat is lying there.

So then we knew that exactly 10 terrorists are there. Initially it was not known how many terrorists were there, there are so many hoax calls going on.

… When did you realize this has the imprint of a highly sophisticated, paramilitary-intelligence-driven operation?

The moment [we] started intercepting the calls, you realize that it is [a] very highly trained force, and each and every thing was being directed to you. “The police is coming from the left side; just drop some grenades there.”

The live media coverage helped Sajid Mir and others quite a lot. I think they were watching the thing when we were hearing the interception. The TV news had all this flashing; we could hear the voice. [At] that point we could make out that they are sitting in some control-room sort of setup.

[At what point did you realize] that this was something that required lots of reconnaissance before the fact?

… When [we] recovered the Garmin GPS handsets. … One of the Garmin, the most important, was slightly damaged. Since they’re a U.S. company, it was sent to FBI laboratory for processing, because a lot of data we were not able to recover.

When we got into there and we could recover all the data, then we realized how much time they have spent on practicing the targets, dry runs and everything; that all the data that was stored on that handset. …

Still, at that point of time, we were not able to locate actually where the control room was through the communications, because … the FBI also tried to backtrack the location, but they could not locate beyond [a] proxy server in Moscow and [an]other in Europe.

This type of precaution they had taken, so all the details during the investigation came to us, [and] then we realized this is an operation of a high magnitude. … It was planned for last three, four, two and a half years definitely. Each and every precise operation details were taken into account. …

You said that there was one GPS you found that was incredibly specific.

… It covers all the road[s] and goes up to Taj, and Café Leopold-specific coordinates are there. And to be more specific, the GPS is off Garmin. The Garmin has its own set of GIS maps. And these guys were trained on Google Earth also, so the difference is approximately I believe three minutes or three seconds within the coordinates. So these guys were told during training that you are being trained to see this thing. And you see all Garmin handset, you have to reduce three minutes or three seconds from that, and that formula was pasted on the handset.

They compensated for the difference between the systems.

Compensated for that, yes. So when you take a printout of the Garmin coordinates on a Google map, it will not show you exactly following the route, but it [will] just compensate for that many reductions which is pasted on that handset. It exactly follows the route which was taken by the terrorists. …

Why did they use Google?

… When broadly you want to see how you are zooming in, you have to show, train a particular fellow, Google Earth is the best option.

So Google for training and Garmin for the actual —

Actual operation. …


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