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India: 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab executed in secrecy


New Delhi, (Agencies):

Pakistani national Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist of the Mumbai terror attack of November 26, 2008, was hanged in a Pune jail at 7.30 am on Wednesday, after his mercy plea was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this month.

Kasab had been buried inside the premises of Pune's Yerawada Central Jail shortly after the execution, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told journalists.

Chavan said Kasab had been shifted from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to Pune two days ago.

Kasab did not leave behind any will, the chief minister said.

The chilling images of Kasab's killing spree, captured by close-circuit TVs installed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai were rekindled, as Maharashtra home minister RR Patil announced the execution, carried out in complete secrecy.

"All the legal procedures in the 26/11 terror attacks case were completed," Patil told reporters in Mumbai, adding: "Accordingly, Kasab has been hanged this morning at 7.30 am in Yerawada Central Jail."

Kasab's end came five days before the fourth anniversary of the brutal terror attacks that claimed 166 lives and injured 300 people. Nine of his associates, who had sneaked into Mumbai for the three-day carnage, had been secretly buried in the city in January 2010.

The hanging also comes a day before the winter session of parliament and weeks ahead of Gujarat assembly election in December.

Union home minister said a letter was sent to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi, informing them of the decision to hang Kasab. When the letter was not accepted, a the same was faxed to Pakistan's foreign ministry. But there was no response.

Kasab -- who was barely 21 when he carried out the brutal attack -- was sentenced to death on four counts and to life sentence on five counts on charges including murder, waging a war on India and possessing weapons.

He was first sentenced to death by a special trial court on May 6, 2010.

The Bombay high court upheld the verdict Feb 21 last year, followed by a similar decision by the Supreme Court on Aug 29. Finally, President Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea Nov 5.

"It took the Maharashtra government less than two weeks to hang Kasab, after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition Nov 5. I forwarded it to the Maharashtra government on Nov 8," Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in New Delhi.

"Pakistan has been informed but there is no demand for Kasab's body," he said, adding, the the entire operation had to be conducted under secrecy due to the sensitivities involved and all the due procedures were followed.

Soon after, reactions started pouring in.

The hanging of Kasab was a case of "better late than never", the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Wednesday after the 26/11 Pakistani terrorist was executed in Pune's Yerawada jail.

"It took us four years to finally hang him. Better late than never," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told mediapersons in New Delhi.

Asking the government to "expedite the whole process of mercy petitions", Prasad also demanded action against Afzal Guru, who masterminded the attack on parliament in December 2001.

"All the handlers, conspirators of the Mumbai attack still remain at large in Pakistan," Prasad said further.

BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi termed the hanging as "a stern warning to the enemies of India especially those across the border who want to terrorise India".

Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who appeared for state in the case, said with Kasab's hanging homage has now been paid to those lost their lives in the terror attacks.

"By Kasab's conviction and death penalty, we have proved how the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. We have set an example that India will not tolerate such attacks and the accused will be brought to justice," Nikam said.

'India should end death penalty'

Hours after Kasab was hanged in Pune, Human Rights Watch urged India to remove the death penalty from its legal framework.

"The hanging of Kasab marks a concerning end to the country's moratorium on capital punishment," said a statement from the US-based rights group issued in India.

"Instead of resorting to the use of execution to address heinous crime, India should join the rising ranks of nations that have taken the decision to remove the death penalty from their legal frameworks," it added.

'We have got justice'

"The first thing that comes to my mind is what happened is good. We are happy that we have got justice," wife of a railway ticket collector, who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, said today reacting to Pakistan terrorist Ajmal Kasab's hanging.

Ragini Sharma, whose husband S K Sharma was killed in the 2008 terror strike, said she would like to thank the President for rejecting Kasab's mercy plea.

"I would like to thank the President. However, it got delayed but we did get justice. I am happy that it (the hanging) was done secretly, otherwide some human rights people would have opposed it," she said.

Vishnu Zende, an announcer at the Chhtrapati Shivaji Terminus, the railway station here which was one of the targets of the attack, said, "I had never thought that I would get to hear this news like this.

"I am very happy that he has been hanged. All the people who died in the terror attack have been given tribute by hanging him," Zende, who had helped save many lives by making announcements over the public address system in the station about the strike, said.

Advocate Ujwal Nikam who was the public prosecutor in this case expressed happiness over the move." We have exposed the modus operandi of terror groups operating from Pakistan and sent a message that terrorism will not be tolerated, " Nikam said.

"Yes, Kasab has been hanged this (Wednesday) morning at 7.30 a.m. in Yerawada Central Jail," special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who led the 26/11 terror attacks case, said.

Kasab buried inside Pune jail

Kasab was buried inside the premises of Pune's Yerawada Central jail shortly after he was hanged, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said on Wednesday.

Chavan said Kasab had been shifted from Mumbai to Pune two days ago.

Kasab did not leave behind any will, the chief minister told journalists, adding that he had been buried in the jail premises on the outskirts of Pune.

Ajmal Kasab and nine fellow Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists had sailed into Mumbai on November 26, 2008 from Karachi and gone on a shooting spree that killed 166 people. Kasab was the only one captured alive by security forces.

Kasab 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.

He appealed in the Supreme Court claiming he did not receive a fair trial but his petition was struck down in August.

During the 2008 attacks, the heavily armed terrorists stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station.

India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant organisation for training, equipping and financing the gunmen with support from "elements" in the Pakistan military.

(With inputs from HT, PTI, IANS)

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