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Mumbai Attacker Ajmal Kasab Found Guilty

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Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman arrested during the terror strike on India's western metropolis of Mumbai on November 26-28, 2008 that left 166 people dead and more than 300 injured, was found guilty by a special court in the financial capital on Monday.

Kasab, a Pakistani national, is accused of being part of a 10-member militant commando group of the Pakistan-based Islamist outfit Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) that carried out a three-day orgy of violence in Mumbai nearly 18 months ago.

However, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, both Indians, charged with drawing maps of targets and passing them on to the LeT to execute the diabolic terror attacks, were acquitted. Special judge M L Tahilyani, who delivered the verdict, said that there was no proof against them.

Kasab, who was slapped with 86 charges ranging from criminal conspiracy to waging war against the nation, murder, and offenses under the explosives act, faces death or life imprisonment.

The verdict will be followed by arguments between the prosecution and the defense over the quantum of sentence that should be handed down to Kasab. The court will pronounce the sentence after hearing both sides. However, a lengthy appeal through the higher courts and an indeterminate wait on death row is likely to follow before the sentence is carried out.

Kasab initially denied the charges but made a shock confession last July, admitting that he and the other gunmen were trained, equipped and financed by the LeT, with help from elements in the Pakistan military.

However, in December he retracted the confession claiming it was made under pressure and that he was a victim of mistaken identity with witnesses coached by police.

The trial, perhaps the fastest in a terror case in India, had commenced on May 8 in a special court set up at the heavily-fortified Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai which recorded 3,192 pages of evidence after examining 658 witnesses on 271 working days and a 675-page written submission was filed.

Thirty witnesses in the court identified Kasab as the gunman who had opened fire at them.

The witnesses included many survivors of the terror attacks, eyewitnesses, family members of the victims, police officials, several foreign nationals, Indian security officials and officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The 10 Pakistani terrorists had targeted several sites such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a railway station and World Heritage Building, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Hotel Oberoi-Trident, Cama Hospital and the Chabad House, a Jewish prayer center and Leopold Cafe, a favorite among foreigners. Nine of them were subsequently killed by the elite National Security Guards (NSG) after nearly a three-day commando operation.

India blamed the operation, which traumatized the nation, on the LeT, straining already tense diplomatic ties with its neighbor.

The international community has praised New Delhi for holding a public trial despite widespread calls in the immediate aftermath of the attacks for Kasab to be hanged without trial, and intimidation of lawyers prepared to represent him.

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