By Matthias Williams
NEW DELHI, Nov 21 (Reuters) - When police asked Mohammad
Ajmal Kasab whether he felt pity for the people he gunned down
during one of India's bloodiest militant attacks, he said he had
given it some thought beforehand.
He had been assured "you have to do these things, if you're
going to be a big man and get rewarded in heaven", according to
video footage of his interrogation, in which he talked of his
training and handlers.
Captured as he tried to escape in a stolen car, Kasab was
the only survivor among ten gunmen who killed 166 people on a
three-day rampage across Mumbai in 2008, spraying bullets and
throwing grenades as they hit some of the city's most famous
Kasab was hanged in secret on Wednesday in the western city
of Pune, just days before the fourth anniversary of the attacks.
He had no last request.
Friends in his home village in Pakistan's Punjab province
remember a boisterous, playful boy who loved films and karate.
His aunt said she was proud of him.
But the image of Kasab, a baby-faced youth, filmed toting an
AK-47 as he embarked on a killing spree at a crowded Mumbai
railway station, became the face of the carnage that is often
described as India's equivalent of the Sept. 11 attacks on the
The violence, which India blames on the Pakistani militant
group Lashkar-e-Taiba, temporarily ruptured a fragile peace
process between the traditional foes.
Kasab was charged with 86 offences including murder and
waging war against the Indian state as part of a charge-sheet
that filled more than 11,000 pages. The twists and turns of his
trial captivated a country that remained jittery for fear of
"For the lives of the innocents who were killed in the
attacks perpetrated by Mr Kasab, justice has been done," Sanjeev
Dayal, director general of Maharashtra police, told Reuters.
"Their souls may now find some solace."
At the start of his trial, Kasab smiled and occasionally
broke into laughter. He initially confessed to the killings,
only to later retract his statements and claim that he had
travelled to Mumbai in the hope of landing a Bollywood film
Reports of his tantrums while in prison, including his
chucking his prison food into the bin and demanding mutton
biryani, sparked outrage in the Indian media.
"Though Kasab has been hanged, our sorrows continue and we
have to live a painful life," said Kalpana Shah, the wife of a
real estate developer who was killed in the attacks. "It was
such a cruel incident. But what can be done? We have to live
with it," she told Reuters, wiping back tears as she spoke.
Kasab was from the village of Faridkot in Pakistan's farming
belt in Punjab province. Indian authorities say he was born in
1987, although his age became the subject of a dispute at the
trial, as his lawyers argued he was not even 17 during the
attacks and should be tried in a juvenile court.
A classmate, speaking to Reuters by phone and not wanting to
be identified, said Kasab had left his village in search of work
when he was a poor teenage labourer. Another schoolmate
remembers taking karate lessons with him.
"He comes from a very humble but noble, honest family. His
father was a street vendor selling snacks on a cart. Kasab did
not send any money home and his family is still as poor as they
were before he left. He was probably trapped by some religious
group," recalls Haji Mohammad Aslam, Kasab's neighbour who owns
a shop where his family lived.
"He was very active, always jumping around. He loved
watching films," Aslam told Reuters by phone. "He would stay out
until midnight watching TV in shops and street restaurants. He
grew up in our hands; he was a playful boy and it's not possible
that he did all this."
According to investigators, Kasab said he had undergone
months of commando-style training in an Islamist training camp
organised by Lashkar-e-Taiba and conducted by a former member of
the Pakistani army.
Lashkar made its name fighting Indian rule in Kashmir but
was also blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001
that brought the two nuclear-armed rivals close to a fourth war.
Kasab was one of a squad of ten who crept into Mumbai on
three inflatable speedboats shortly after nightfall on Nov 26,
2008. The group had sailed across the Arabian Sea from Karachi
for days, hijacking an Indian trawler on their way and killing
The group fanned out in the city, attacking targets
including two luxury hotels, a bar popular with tourists, and a
Kasab was filmed walking through the Chhatrapati Shivaji
Terminus, a gothic train station, in an attack in which nearly
60 people were killed and left to lie in pools of blood.
An effigy of Kasab, with a noose around his neck, was hung
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
In contrast, a senior commander of Lashkar celebrated Kasab
as a "hero" who would inspire others to follow in his footsteps.
"This news is hell for us," Shahnaz Sughra, Kasab's aunt,
told Reuters by phone. "...Even if he did something wrong, we
just want his body. Even if he did something wrong, I am proud
that he taught the enemy a lesson in their own country."