Abu Hamza is a key arrest in the 26/11 attacks case. He may also solve the question of the 'inside link' behind the attacks, says Vicky Nanjappa.
The arrest of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Abu Hamza may provide investigators with a lot of information about the planning and execution of the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai.
Hamza played a crucial role in coordinating the attack and was instrumental in guiding the ten attackers who killed over 160 people when they struck Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Though most LeT operatives knew only parts of the plan as they worked on a need-to-know basis, Hamza was among the few who were kept in the loop about the entire operation from day one. He was given the role of a handler as he had to guide the entire operation. Apart from Hamza, the other handlers involved in the attack were Muzzamil Bhat, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvhi, Major Samir Ali and Major Iqbal, who all worked together to coordinate the attacks.
According to the Intelligence Bureau, Hamza was very familiar with the layout of the buildings that were attacked during the 26/11 attacks and investigators have wondered whether he had visited Mumbai earlier.
The probe into the 26/11 attacks suggested that he also laid out an escape plan for the attackers. Hamza was well aware of an escape route in the Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the targets of the terrorists, and had advised attackers to use it.
Pakistani-American LeT operative David Headley has also mentioned Hamza during his confessions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hamza's confessions will be crucial to the investigation of the 26/11 strike, as he is likely to have information about the mysterious 'majors' behind it.
He may also reveal the role played by certain officials of the Inter Services Intelligence while carrying out the attack.
The other LeT operative Indian investigators are looking for is Sajid Mir, who is wanted by various agencies across the world. Pakistan has claimed that no such man exists, but Indian intelligence agencies have received information about Mir being kept in a safe house on Airport Road in Karachi immediately after the 26/11 attacks.
Hamza and Mir had worked together to coordinate the terror strike and Indian investigators will try to get some information on the latter by interrogating Hamza.
Hamza can also help Indian officials build their case against LeT operative Tawwahur Rana, who was acquitted of all charges related to the 26/11 strike by a United States court. According to the confession of Headley, Rana had personally congratulated the handlers of the attack.
Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist arrested during the siege, had told the police that during the run-up to the operation, he was in touch with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Abu Hamza, Abu Kafa and Abu Jhundal. His meetings with Hamza had taken place at Battal in Pakistan.
Hamza went by the name Zabiuddin and spoke fluently in Hindi during the attack, confusing Indian agencies which had listened in on their conversation. Investigators are not even sure of his nationality as arrested LeT operative Sabahuddin Ahmed claims that he is a Pakistani, while many others suspect that he hails from Beed in Maharashtra.
According to IB sources, he could have trained the 26/11 attackers in Hindi so that they could conceal their identity. If investigations reveal that Hamza is an Indian, it will help probe agencies track the 'inside link' behind the attack.