Mumbai 26/11 gunman Kasab hanged to death

Appeal for mercy from the Indian president rejected earlier; Ajmal executed at 7:30am at Yerwada jail in Pune

The sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was executed Wednesday, nearly four years after 166 people were killed in a three-day rampage through India's financial capital, an official announced.

Mohammed Kasab was hanged early Wednesday at Yerwada jail in Pune in the western state of Maharashtra after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea earlier this month.

"Kasab was shifted to Yerwada jail two days ago. He was hanged at 7:30 this morning (0200 GMT)," Maharashtra home minister R R Patil told reporters in Mumbai.

"His execution is a fitting tribute to the victims of Mumbai attacks," Patil added at a news conference.

The Pakistan-born Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that began on November 26, 2008, and lasted nearly three days.

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

He appealed in the Supreme Court claiming he did not receive a fair trial but his petition was struck down in August.

During the 2008 attacks, the heavily armed Islamist gunmen stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station.

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.

Who was Kasab?

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, who was executed on Wednesday, was a school drop-out from a small village in Pakistan who earned infamy as the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Ten heavily-armed militants ran rampage through the city in November four years ago, killing 166 people over nearly three days in a prolonged assault that was covered live on television around the world.

Kasab was one of two gunmen who opened fire and threw hand grenades at Mumbai's main railway station on November 26, killing 52 people and wounding more than 100.

He was born in the dusty village of Faridkot in a remote and impoverished region of Punjab in Pakistan's farming belt, home to 10,000 people, most of them farmers and labourers and few of them literate.

His father, Mohammed Amir Iman, ran a food stall in the village.

Kasab dropped out of school in 2000 and worked as a labourer in the eastern city of Lahore until 2005, according to his initial confession to police, which was widely published in India.

Kasab hanged for his crimes

He first pleaded not guilty but later made a confession, admitting being one of the 10 gunmen trained, equipped and financed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Kasab reportedly said he joined the extremist group to get weapons training after deciding to embark on a life of crime but there have also been claims that his father duped him into doing it for money.

The Supreme Court in New Delhi upheld his death sentence in August and he was executed, aged 25, on Wednesday after his final appeal to the president to save him from death was rejected.

Wilson John, senior fellow at New Delhi's Observer Research Foundation and a specialist in extremist groups, told AFP that Kasab fitted "the profile if you look at the terrorists recruited by Lashkar-e-Taiba".

"They come from lower-middle class or poor families," he said. "They're not entirely uneducated, just a little bit educated, they're unemployed and looking for a job. They're not religiously inclined but they can be brainwashed.

"He was a prime target."

When his trial began in 2009, Kasab at first appeared relaxed, dressed in either a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms or a traditional kurta-pyjama, 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 he was pronounced guilty of murder and waging war on India.

After his conviction, he was held in a high-security jail in Mumbai. When his Supreme Court appeal began in January, he issued a statement saying he had been denied a fair trial.

Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam characterised Kasab as a shrewd and calculating operative.

While pushing for the death penalty, Nikam dwelt on the apparent smile Kasab wore while firing on travellers in the train station and his reported regret at arriving late at the target because he had missed the commuter rush.

His defence lawyer, KP Pawar, sought to persuade the court that Kasab was a susceptible young man who had been brainwashed.

"He was mentally defective (at the time of the attacks) and the effect impaired his ability to appreciate the impact of his conduct," Pawar told the court during discussions about his sentence.

"He's a human being of flesh and blood, that should not be forgotten," he added.



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