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Sole surviving gunman from Mumbai attacks is executed

25-year-old Mohammed Kassab was hanged for his role in the attacks which killed 166 people in 2008.

A man waves an Indian flag outside the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the sites of the Mumbai terror attacks
A man waves an Indian flag outside the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the sites of the Mumbai terror attacks
Image: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

THE SOLE SURVIVING gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was executed this morning, nearly four years after 166 people died in the three-day rampage.

Pakistani-born Mohammed Kasab, aged 25, was hanged for his role in the assaults that targeted luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station in Mumbai.

“His execution is a fitting tribute to the victims,” said RR Patil, home minister of Maharashtra state, adding that Kasab was hanged at 2am GMT in Pune city’s Yerwada jail.

Kasab was buried inside the prison grounds and did not have any last wish or a will, the state’s Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters.

Kasab was one of 10 heavily-armed Islamist gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that began on 26 November 2008, and lasted nearly three days – the deadliest militant onslaught on Indian soil since independence.

He was sentenced to death in May 2010 after being found guilty of a string of charges, including waging war against India, murder and terrorist acts.

The verdict was upheld by India’s Supreme Court in August and President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab’s pleas for mercy earlier this month.

Devika Rotwan was the youngest eyewitness in his trial, aged just 10 when a bullet hit her right leg as Kasab and a fellow gunman opened fire at south Mumbai’s CST train station on the first night of the attacks.

“I am very happy that Kasab has been hanged. I had always felt and said that it should have happened earlier, but it is good,” Rotwan told AFP after seeing the news on television.

On the streets of Mumbai, the city’s famous “dabbawallas” or lunchbox deliverers – who kept working even during the attacks – let off firecrackers in celebration over Kasab’s execution.

Federal home minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi that the Indian government had informed its counterparts in Pakistan of Kasab’s hanging.

India’s low execution rate

Activists distribute sweets to celebrate the execution of Mohammed Kasab in New Dehli today. Photo: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

The news surprised many in India, which has executed just one person in 15 years  - a former security guard hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Prisoners can often languish for years on death row but there had been a huge clamour for Kasab’s execution.

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

Pakistan has admitted that the attacks were planned partly on its soil, but denies any official involvement. It charged seven alleged plotters behind the attacks in 2009 but has insisted more evidence is needed to convict them.

Kasab initially pleaded not guilty at his trial but later confessed, admitting he was one of the gunmen sent by the LeT.

In court, the prosecution produced fingerprint, DNA, eyewitness and TV footage evidence showing him opening fire and throwing grenades at Mumbai’s main railway station in the bloodiest episode of the attacks.

When his trial began in 2009, Kasab at first appeared relaxed, joking or smiling at lawyers and reporters.

But he seemed increasingly sullen, withdrawn and even asleep as the trial progressed, prompting fears for his mental state. He showed no emotion in the dock when the verdict was handed down.

When his appeal hearing began in January, Kasab claimed in a statement that he was denied a fair trial.

“I may be guilty of killing people and carrying out a terrorist act but I am not guilty of waging war against the state,” he said.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Musharraf calls for India, Pakistan to bury the hatchet >

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