Dailybhaskar.com | Last Modified - Jul 04, 2012, 05:28 PM IST
New Delhi: The ghost of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari aka Abu Jundal has been giving nightmares to the Indian intelligence agencies till his extradition from Saudi Arabia recently. He was often quoted by the Indian sleuths as someone who had succesfully hoodwinked security agencies, crossed into Bangladesh and then travelled onwards to Pakistan, all with the help of Pakistani intelligence operatives. It was also established by the Indian slueths that he had been rehabilitated and was now a loyal member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
But the questions arise here when and how did Indian agencies figure out that Ansari was ‘Abu Jundal’, the man who allegedly coordinated with the 26/11 Mumbai attackers from Karachi? Sitting in the Karanchi control, who was giving instructions to the 26/11 attackers in Hindi? There were conjectures made but no firm answers until about two years ago.
According to a report published in The Indian Express, intelligence agencies were monitoring the phones of another Pakistani terrorist, Adil alias Ajmal. He was finally picked from Madhubani in Bihar during his second visit to India last year for allegedly planning terror attacks against foreign tourists during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Ajmal used to be in touch with a person in Karachi whom he constantly referred to as ‘Abu Jundal’. This caught the attention of Indian agencies, which had been struggling with this ‘kunniyat’ or code since 26/11 and Kasab’s confession, in which he refers to Jundal as the man who taught them Hindi, the report said.
"This piece of information was promptly shared with US agencies, who had better eyes and ears in Pakistan. And thus began the unravelling of Ansari’s post-Aurangabad life—one about which the Indian establishment had very little information," the report said.
The report said in early 2009, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) got information that Ansari, who was on the most wanted list for the Aurangabad case, had been issued a Pakistani passport (QL1790941) in the name of Riyasat Ali on January 28, 2009. As part of the sharing arrangement to ensure better monitoring, India passed on this information to US intelligence agencies.
After this intelligence, the report said, Indian and US agencies traced Ajmal’s calls to the one he referred to as ‘Abu Jundal’. It led operatives to Riyasat Ali, who turned out to be Zabiuddin Ansari and the dots were finally joined, the report said.
By 2010, when it was established that Ansari was Jundal, US interest in the case heightened, given that he was plotting attacks against US targets. Indian and US agencies began discussing how they would corner Ansari and while they explored several options, they had decided at the start that Pakistan’s help should not be sought in this case.
Finally, the report said, a call was taken that they would wait for Ansari to travel out of Pakistan and nab him there. And thus started a patient phase of wait and watch, while alerts were sounded across airports based on his prevalent Red Corner Notice.
Meanwhile, his movements showed that he had gradually won the trust of the Lashkar hierarchy, with important tasks being assigned to him.
How Jundal entered Saudi Arbia
The report said before being sent off to Saudi Arabia, Jundal was taken to meet Lashkar operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in Adiala jail in Pakistan. He had been tasked to recruit and motivate Indians in Saudi Arabia to join jihad and specifically look for recruits who can also target US and Israeli interests in India. Saudi authorities had been informed even before he left Pakistan on April 26 last year.
According to the report, Saudi authorities conveyed that they may not be able to stop him at immigration if he had a valid Pakistani passport; they agreed to mount surveillance on him. He had reportedly projected himself as a small-time businessman and had floated a small company with three or four Saudi partners. However, his every activity was being monitored there. Soon the Saudi authorities pointed out that he spent little time in business and more time trying to spread extreme ideology and looking for potential recruits. In about a month, the report said, they were convinced that Ansari was not doing what he had stated before entering Saudi Arabia.
The report said he was picked up last May and kept in detention while details were sought from India to prove his identity. With Pakistan pointing out that deportation, if required, should be to the country of origin, a fair amount of heavy lifting was required. First, Ansari’s photographs were superimposed, then a DNA test was done and later, a blood sample was sent from India to help the Saudi authorities conduct their own DNA comparison. By July, sources said, the Saudi authorities were convinced that the person in their detention was Ansari, not Riyasat Ali.
Yet, the Saudi authorities waited, conveying that they had to complete some of their internal processes first. Such was the Pakistani pressure on Saudi intelligence that at one point, they offered Indian investigators access to Ansari in Saudi Arabia rather than deporting him back. India, however, refused the offer and insisted on having him back.
US authorities exerted significant pressure on Saudi Arabia in the days that followed, apart from constant reminders from India. India had made it clear that it was willing to render any help to fully satisfy Saudi queries on Ansari’s identity and nationality as long as Saudi Arabia would abide by its commitment that it would repatriate Indian nationals wanted for terror activities here. This was an understanding reached while firming up intelligence cooperation between both countries.
According to the report, the Saudi authorities said they were willing to deport Ansari to India without the formal extradition process. Immediately, India began preparing temporary travel permit papers under the name Zabiuddin Ansari, based on the details in the last Indian passport (E7845118) he held. He was flown in on a commercial plane on June 21, completing a long intelligence operation in which Indian and US agencies managed to get Saudi Arabia to cooperate to ensure that a 26/11 suspect does not get sent back to Pakistan just because he held a Pakistani passport.