The trial of the sole surviving gunman from the Mumbai attacks was adjourned on Tuesday to give the prosecution more time to respond to his dramatic confession that he took part in the carnage.
Judge ML Tahaliyani said prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had until Wednesday to prepare his response, after Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Kasab’s shock admission that he was one of the 10 extremist gunmen.
”If his plea is to be accepted, then what should be the next stage? Does his plea cover all the charges levelled against him?” the judge asked Nikam.
Nikam gave an indication that he could push for the trial to continue, telling reporters outside court that Kasab’s statement was only a partial admission of guilt and did not cover all 86 charges he faces.
Further evidence would have to be produced to prove his involvement in areas he has not mentioned, he said. Two other defendants are also on trial charged with providing vital logistical support to the attackers, he added.
Before the adjournment, Kasab told the court that he had orders to take hostages at the city’s main railway station, where he and an accomplice opened fire and threw grenades, killing 52 and injuring more than 100 others.
”The target was to fire at CST [Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus] and take hostages on the upper floor,” said Kasab, who was barefoot and dressed in an white kurta outfit.
”We were also directed to fire at any persons who might come,” the 21-year-old told the judge.
Tahaliyani then banned press reporting of a separate statement in which Kasab appeared to suggest a reason for the attacks. The judge said the order was ”in the interests of communal harmony”.
Kasab shocked the judge, prosecution and his own lawyer on Monday by confessing to his involvement in the November 26 to 29 attacks, which left 166 people dead and more than 300 others injured.
The rail station attack by Kasab and accomplice Abu Ismail was the bloodiest episode of the 60-hour reign of terror against multiple targets in south Mumbai.
The pair then fled, firing indiscriminately on the way, killing civilians and a number of senior police officers, including the head of the city’s anti-terrorism squad.
Kasab, who also placed an eight-kilogram bomb in a taxi that took him to the station and which later exploded, killing the driver and passenger, was arrested after a shoot-out with police. Ismail was killed.
The prosecution linked the confession to the pending trial in Pakistan of five men accused of involvement in the attacks, including key Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives Zarar Shah and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind.
LeT, a banned Pakistan-based Islamist group, is said to have trained, equipped and financed the gunmen.
Kasab told the court that Lakhvi was one of a number of LeT members who saw off the gunmen from the southern port city of Karachi, before they hijacked an Indian fishing trawler to take them to the Mumbai coast.
The attacks, which left 26 foreign nationals dead, frayed already strained relations between India and Pakistan and sparked international condemnation. — AFP