Calls Shed Light On Gunmen's Motives

December 16, 2008

Author: Emily Wax

Source: The Washington Post

During the three-day siege of Mumbai, an Indian television news anchor took a call from one of the suspected attackers, a young man who identified himself as Imran Babar.

"You're surrounded. You're definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?" the anchor at India TV implored him.

The voice on the other end of the line, sounding robotic, rattled off a list of grievances: the 2002 riots in Gujarat state during which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed; the 1992 demolition of the centuries-old Babri mosque by Hindu mobs; and India's control over part of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The caller was holed up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish outreach center where the assailants had taken hostages, according to cellphone records obtained by Indian investigators. "Are you aware how many people have been killed in Kashmir? Are you aware how your army has killed Muslims?" the caller demanded. "We die every day," he told the news anchor. "It's better to win one day as a lion than die this way."

The caller offered the first inkling of why 10 gunmen came ashore in Mumbai last month to carry out a rampage in which 171 people were killed and more than 230 were injured. Although investigators say they have established the identity of the attackers, they are still piecing together the assailants' motives.

Indian officials suspect that the group allegedly behind the attack, Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Taiba, draws support from security and intelligence forces within that country and is fueled by a growing list of grievances that stretch from the 17th century to the subcontinent's partition in 1947, which created the independent nations of India and Pakistan. The grievances also include India's increasingly warm ties with the United States and Israel, counterterrorism experts say. Mumbai police have said that interrogations of the lone gunman captured during the attacks, Ajmal Amir Kasab, have revealed links between the gunmen and Lashkar operational commanders based in Pakistan.