The Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists who attacked the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on 26/11 were told by their handlers in Pakistan that there were two Pakistani cricketers staying there and the gunmen planned to eliminate them, according to intercepts of their phone conversations presented in court today. But Mumbai Police said they had since probed this information and found that no Pakistani cricketers were at the hotel during the attack.
The intercepts, considered crucial evidence in the trial, were submitted to the Special Sessions Court by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). The conversations reveal that the four attackers seemed scared at times despite their rigorous training and had to be motivated by their handlers to hold their positions at the hotel. The handlers, apparently monitoring TV coverage of the attack, constantly passed on specific instructions — from telling the gunmen that the Taj was the media's most-watched site to briefing them on the killing of the top police brass.
The following is the conversation that refers to the Pakistani cricketers:
• Handler: “Do Pakistani cricket khelne waale bhi hain aapke paas” (You have two Pakistani cricketers with you).
• Terrorist: “Bas ab aagey se nahi khelenge cricket, Insha Allah” (Now they won't play cricket in the future, God willing)
The intercepts also reveal that the Pak-based handlers had instructed the terrorists to “blackmail” relatives of hostages to speak to the police and get them to stop the counter-terror operation.
In an indication of how closely the TV news coverage of the attack was being monitored by the Pakistan-based handlers to guide the terrorists, the intercepts show that real-time inputs were passed on about the positions of the police.
• Handler: “Jis taraf aap mude ho, aapka muh samundar ke paas huye. Waha mod ke road ke upar ek building hain civil logon ki. Woh asal mein navy ki hain. Who civil ko di hain. Uske taraf do police waley khade hain, woh position lekar aapke upar shist lekar firing kar rahe hain” (The direction which you are facing is towards the sea. There is a building after a turn on that road which is a civilian building. But it actually belongs to the Navy and has been given to civilians. There are two policemen there who are taking aim and firing at you).
The intercepts also show how the 10 gunmen from modest backgrounds in Pakistan were unaccustomed to several new sights around them, and were at pains to explain what they saw to their handlers.
For instance, one of the terrorists describes a fire tender as a bus with stairs. “Bahar main sadak par dekh raha hoon, do gaadi aayi hain badi badi bus ke jaise, bus ke jaise lag rahi thi. Uspey jaisi sidiya bani hui hain. Dono bhi Taj hotel ke andar aa gayi” (I am looking at the street outside, two huge vehicles like buses have arrived, they look like buses, they have some kind of ladder on them, both have come into the Taj hotel).
At one point, the handler also explains to the terrorist how fire extinguishers along the walls of the hotel corridors have hammers attached to them, which could be used to open the doors of the hotel rooms.