26/11: India hangs Ajmal Kasab
Ending a four-year-long judicial process, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008, was hanged in western city Pune in Maharashtra on Wednesday morning, only four days before the fourth anniversary of the audacious strike from Pakistan-based terror groups that left 166 people dead and over 300 wounded.
Kasab has been buried at Yerwada jail in Pune, where he was hanged on Wednesday morning after he was shifted there from the jail in Mumbai, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
The Mumbai attack had brought India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed neighbours, perilously close to a war and led to a halt in peace talks between the two countries.
The last hurdle to 25-year-old Kasab's handing was cleared by the Supreme Court in Aug this year when the apex court upheld the death sentence of Kasab by all other courts. Kasab had challenged the trial court verdict in the apex court. President of India Pranab Mukherjee too had rejected his mercy petition.
In a statement India's home ministry said: "The petition for clemency filed by condemned prisoner Mohammed Ajmal Mohammed Amir Kasab was rejected by the President on 5th November, 2012. The sentence was executed today at 7.30 a.m. at Yeravada Central Prison, Yeravada, Pune."
Kasab wanted his death sentence pronounced by a trial court to be reversed and commuted to life sentence. He had appealed to the Bombay High Court first which upheld the trial court order and later the Supreme Court also upheld the trial court order.
After the news of his hanging broke, India's home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters that Kasab's body would be kept a while for the family to claim it.
"All the police officers and personnel who lost their life in the battle against the terrorists have today been served justice," Shinde said.
Reports said the authorities followed the jail manual and Kasab was offered the option of contacting his family and putting down his will. He declined both.
Kasab had no last wish before he was hanged at Pune's Yerawada Jail at 7.30 am, said Maharashtra home minister R R Patil after the execution of the terrorist.
"He did not have any last wish," said Patil, adding that the central government was informed and the centre in turn has informed the Pakistan government.
"Justice has been done today," said Patil.
Asked why it was done with such secrecy, Patil said: "We kept it a secret because of security reasons and by hanging him today after due legal process we also proved that we can reply strongly to any attack on us by any external force."
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said secrecy had been maintained over Kasab's execution because the government did not want to compromise the security situation in any way.
A total of 166 people including foreigners were killed in the attack on Mumbai in Nov 2008.
Kasab was the only among the 10 Pakistani gunmen who was captured alive after they went on a killing spree in Mumbai for nearly three days targetting luxury hotels, Jewish centres, railways stations and hospital.
South Mumbai was the main target as the attacks took place at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, the Nariman House Jewish community centre, the Metro Cinema, and a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier's College.
The terrorists had all come by sea after meticulous planning from Pakistan. They had reached the Mumbai shore in a dinghy on Nov 26, 2008, and then spread out in the financial hub of India in groups to unleash an over 60-hour long carnage in the city till India's elite NSG commandoes and cops managed to kill nine of them and capture Kasab alive.
Kasab, who is a Pakistan-groomed Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist, was hanged after a four year long legal process and following rejection of his mercy petitions at every forum- from Supreme Court to the President.
Reacting to the hanging, India's external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said rule of law has been followed.
He told media that Pakistan ignored a fax message that had been sent to its Foreign Office on Kasab's execution.
"Everything has been done as per law. This shows the law applies to everyone the same," he said.
Khurshid said if Pakistan or the family of Kasab asks for the body, India will consider it.
"Right now, we don't have any such request. Our letter was not accepted by Pakistan foreign office," he said, adding that fax message was then sent.
In reaction to the hanging, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said: "It is victory for the country. By hanging Kasab, we have paid homage to all those policemen and innocent persons who lost their lives."
India's main Opposition party BJP on Wednesday welcomed the hanging of the lone surviving terrorist in the 26/11 Mumbai attack Ajmal Kasab, but stressed on the fact that his handlers in Pakistan should also be brought to justice.
"Better late than never. Kasab's hanging will act as a balm on the wounds of the people of Mumbai but their wounds are still fresh. They will get relief only when Kasab's handler's across the border are brought to justice," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, adding that Afzal Guru, accused in the 2001 Parliament attack case, should also be hanged soon.
BJP leader and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi also echoed Hussain's views. "What about Afzal Guru, who attacked Parliament, our temple of democracy, in 2001? That offence predates Kasab's heinous act by many years," Modi said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Other politicians also reacted.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "Gotta hand it to the Govts at the centre and in Mumbai for the mature way they handled this. Shows we can still keep a secret if we need to."
Reactions also poured in from those who lost their lives as victims of the terrorists and in commando operations.
K Unnikrishnan, father of NSG commando Major Sandeep who died in the encounter with the terrorists, said the hanging is one step forward but there is no sense of closure for him till all the culprits who had planned the attack were booked by Pakistan.
"The investigation must continue and the other culprits should be booked by Pakistan more than by India," he said.
Another victim's family said they were happy with the execution.
"We are satisfied that at least somebody has taken the decision to hang him. I thank the President and Indian home minister that they tried to give us justice. I feel happy today that he has been executed," said Smita Salaskar, wife of Vijay Salaskar, an encounter specialist in Mumbai police who died from the bullets of the terrorists during the action.