MUMBAI: The sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was executed on Wednesday, nearly four years after 166 people were killed in a three-day rampage through India’s financial capital.
Pakistan-born Mohammed Kasab was hanged at Yerwada jail in Pune in the western state of Maharashtra after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his pleas for mercy earlier this month.
“Kasab was transferred to Yerwada jail two days ago. He was hanged at 7:30 this morning (0200 GMT),” Maharashtra home minister RR Patil announced to reporters in Mumbai.
“His execution is a fitting tribute to the victims of Mumbai attacks.”
The 25-year-old Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that began on November 26, 2008, and lasted nearly three days. It was the deadliest militant onslaught on Indian soil since independence.
He was sentenced to death in May 2010 after he was found guilty of a string of charges, including waging war against India, murder and terrorist acts.
Federal home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that the Indian government had informed its counterparts in Pakistan of Kasab’s execution.
“The external affairs ministry has informed the Pakistan government about the execution,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
It was not immediately clear whether the communication came before or after the execution.
The minister said that India was prepared to hand over the gunman’s body to Pakistani authorities but it had received no such request so far.
“If someone demands the body, we give the body. No demand was made,” he added.
During the attacks, heavily-armed gunmen stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station.
Devika Rotwan, now 13, who was shot in the leg when Kasab and his colleague Ismail Khan opened fire at the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus on the first night of the attacks, said she was pleased to hear about the execution.
“I am very happy that Kasab has been hanged. I had always felt and said that it should have happened earlier, but it is good,” Rotwan, who gave evidence at Kasab’s trial, told AFP.
“I was playing in the morning and heard about the news when I saw the television,” the schoolgirl added.
“The government has done something good at last.”
India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant organisation for training, equipping and financing the gunmen with support from “elements” in the Pakistani military.
Pakistan has admitted that the attacks were planned partly on its soil, but denies any official involvement. It charged seven alleged plotters behind the attacks in 2009 but has insisted more evidence is needed to convict them.
Kasab initially pleaded not guilty at his trial but later confessed, admitting he was one of the gunmen sent by the LeT.
At his trial, the prosecution produced fingerprint, DNA, eyewitness and TV footage evidence showing him opening fire and throwing grenades at Mumbai’s main railway station in the bloodiest episode of the attacks.
When his trial began in 2009, Kasab at first appeared relaxed, joking or smiling at lawyers and reporters.
But he seemed increasingly sullen, withdrawn and even asleep as the trial progressed, prompting fears for his mental state. He showed no emotion in the dock when the verdict was handed down.
Kasab appealed in the Supreme Court, claiming he did not receive a fair trial but his petition was struck down in August.
India has executed just one person in 15 years – a former security guard hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.
Prisoners can often languish for years on death row but there had been a huge clamour for Kasab’s execution.
During his appeal, Kasab argued that he was denied proper legal representation and that some charges against him were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I was denied a fair trial,” Kasab said in a statement when his appeal hearing began in January. “I may be guilty of killing people and carrying out a terrorist act but I am not guilty of waging war against the state.”
The Foreign Office of Pakistan maintained that the country’s stance on terrorism has been very clear and consistent and Pakistan has always condemned terrorisms in all its forms.
“We are willing to cooperate and work closely with all countries of the region to eliminate scourge of terrorism,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan on Wednesday.
The spokesperson clarified that reports in Indian press stating that Pakistan did not receive a note from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad were incorrect and baseless. He said that the deputy high commissioner of Indian Embassy visited the Foreign Office on Tuesday evening with a note regarding the execution of Kasab.
Director General South Asia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the note and acknowledged the receipt, he added.
According to Express News, the Foreign Office has also said that India will be contacted if Kasab’s family demands for his body.