Indian security services have made public chilling phone instructions ordering the Mumbai terrorists to kill their terrified victims.
“Keep your phone switched on,” a handler instructs a gunman by phone in the midst of the siege in November, “so that we can hear the gunfire”.
The ruthless commands come from a transcript of calls Indian authorities say they intercepted during the attacks which killed 164 people.
India says the men issuing orders, reprimands and encouragement to the young gunmen were Pakistani-based militants directing the attacks by mobile phone.
The men on the phone were confident, direct – and brutal.
“We have three foreigners, including women,” a gunman said into the phone from the Oberoi Hotel where hostages had been captured.
“Kill them,” replied the handler. Gunshots then rang out, followed by cheering that could be heard over the phone.
“Inflict the maximum damage,” they said.
The transcripts were part of a dossier of evidence India has given Pakistan this week that India says definitively proves that the siege was launched from across the border. India says the 10 gunmen were all Pakistani and has blamed the Pakistani-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Mumbai transcripts were translated from Punjabi into English by Indian authorities and obtained by the newspaper The Hindu.
They show that the 10 gunmen, who allegedly were trained in Lashkar camps, received instructions throughout the siege.
“If you are still threatened, then don’t saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them,” a handler tells a team of gunmen who had seized a Mumbai Jewish centre, according to the transcript.
Six Jewish foreigners, including a rabbi and his wife, were killed inside the building.
The handlers’ tone is that of a firm teacher alternately dispensing encouragement, criticism, and guidance. Many exchanges, however, were just swift commands that showed the real decisions were being made far from the besieged Mumbai targets.
Roughly 24 hours after the attacks began, the handlers urged the gunmen to “be strong in the name of Allah”.
“Brother, you have to fight. This is a matter of prestige of Islam,” the handler said. “You may feel tired or sleepy, but the commandos of Islam have left everything behind – their mothers, their fathers.”
The gunmen were told several times not to kill any Muslim hostages.
The attackers used several mobile phones, including those belonging to the hostages. Shortly after the siege started, Indian authorities say they began intercepting calls from inside the hotel. They were also able to pick up calls carried over the internet, which the handlers used to route some calls, according to the dossier.
The siege in India’s financial capital lasted nearly three days, far longer than security experts said it should have, and, apparently, far longer than the terrorists expected as well.
The handlers told the gunmen on November 27 that “the operation has to be concluded tomorrow morning”. But it was 36 more hours before it finished.
The attacks against landmark Mumbai targets were covered by news channels worldwide, allowing the handlers to use TV reports to guide the gunmen, the dossier says. The handlers warned when commandos roped down to the Jewish centre from helicopters.
The dossier also included photographs of dozens of items recovered in the attacks, including GPS units, mobile phones, guns, and explosives, as well as data gleaned from satellite phones, and details from the interrogation of the lone surviving gunman.
But the strongest – and most chilling – evidence that the gunmen were not acting alone came from the phone transcripts.
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that Pakistani authorities must have had a hand in the siege.
Lashkar is widely believed to be a 1980s creation of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to pressure India over the disputed area of Kashmir.
Pakistan, which denies the allegation, said it had arrested at least two senior Lashkar leaders, but it was not clear whether either of them were on the phone with the gunmen during the attack.
Pakistani authorities are reviewing the evidence provided by India, but have dismissed Mr Singh’s claims and accused India of unnecessarily whipping up tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals that share a border.
Pakistani information minister Sherry Rehman said yesterday that the lone surviving gunman, Ajmal Kasab, was Pakistani citizen, after weeks of refusing to confirm India’s claims on his nationality.
Predominantly-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence in 1947. But both sides have said they do not want to go to war over Mumbai.
“We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds,” Pakistan’s ISI agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shujaa Pasha told German news magazine Der Spiegel.
“We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India.”