A 26/11-like attack was in the making, but this time, from the east coast. That is how National Investigation Agency (NIA) Director-General Sharad Kumar sums up the agency’s exhaustive nearly two-year investigation into what it says was a massive terror plot against India by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali of the ISI, according to an NIA investigation into the 26/11 case, plotted the strikes on Mumbai by sending in a US citizen to India for reconnaissance of targets in Mumbai and later sent in a group of terrorists by sea to India’s financial hub on the west coast. India could not catch David Coleman Headley, the American who was later arrested by the US and is currently in a jail there. The two Pakistani officers remain just names with India not having any further clue of their identity or photographs.
India arrested three people – Sri Lankan businessmen Muhammed Sakir Hussaien and Arun Selvarajan and an Indian named Thameem Ansari, who the NIA says were deployed by Siddique to survey the locations. “Our agencies caught them at the right time and neutralised the plot.
Combined reading of two charge-sheets filed by the NIA, in last October and this March, paint a horrifying plot. Siddique, says the agency, was planning to send explosives from Mannar in Sri Lanka to between Rameswaram and Tuticorin in India by a rowing boat.
This was to be followed up by two Pakistanis being sent from Colombo to Bengaluru via Maldives on Sri Lankan passports to carry out terror attacks, specifically on the American Consulate. Hussaien was told by his Pakistani handlers that the plot of planting bombs in American Consulate, Chennai, was codenamed ‘Wedding Project’ and ‘Wedding Hall’ was the US Consulate (target).
On July 6, 2012, Selvarajan managed to film the Vessel Traffic Management System Tower at the Chennai Port, the NIA said.”It was a very clever strategy,” the NIA chief says. Pakistan’s High Commission in Colombo didn’t respond to an email from ET seeking comment.
To get the three to work against India, Siddique used the old ploy of espionage: target their financial condition and promise a fortune. Tamil Nadu businessman Ansari was lured into the plot after his onion export business to Sri Lanka flopped – the NIA says Siddique’s Sri Lankan associates ensured this – and he sunk into heavy debt.
“Siddique assured of bailing him out from his financial crisis if he listened to his terms. Siddique highlighted to him about the plight of Muslims in India and asked him to do a favour as he was also a Muslim,” the NIA charge-sheet says. Selvarajan also took similar bait during a financial crunch, says the agency. Selvarajan, unknowingly, did Indian agencies a favour, too.
“The Sri Lankan spy, Muhammed Sakir Hussaien, admitted all his guilt before a Judge on November 28 last year and has been convicted,” NIA chief Kumar said. “For the first time, we now have a judicial pronouncement on the plot.”
“It is up to Sri Lanka to walk the talk in this entire matter,” a top home ministry official said. It is a long battle against Pakistan-sponsored terror plots, says the NIA chief. “They (Pakistan) will keep on doing this … they will try and infiltrate and we have to stop them … it is a long battle.” (Economic Times)