Mumbai/New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) Four years after India's most wounding terror strike, Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the three-day bloody siege of Mumbai, was Wednesday executed in secrecy and buried soon after in a Pune jail.
In a meticulously mounted operation kept completely under wraps, Kasab was hanged to death at 7.30 a.m. in Pune's Yerawada Jail, about 100 km from India's commercial centre Mumbai where he and nine other Pakistanis sneaked in on the night of Nov 26, 2008, to unleash 60 hours of mayhem. Once it ended, 166 people had been killed and more than 300 injured.
The fresh-faced Kasab -- the only foreigner to be hanged in independent India - was barely 21 when he carried out the brutal attack.
The chilling images of young man's killing spree, a backpack and an AK-47 slung across his shoulder, captured by close-circuit TVs installed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai were rekindled.
"Everything has been done according to the law of land. All actions have been taken as per the law of the country," said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
The process of the hanging took place quietly and swiftly after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Kasab's mercy plea Nov 5, sources said.
A special inspector general of police in Maharashtra and 16 handpicked men oversaw Operation X leading to the hanging. Their mission was to complete the job in complete secrecy.
Recounting the events as they unravelled, sources told IANS that once union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde signed the file from the president's office on Nov 7 and sent it to the Maharashtra government the next day, the police team took charge. The decision was taken to hang Kasab on Nov 21 but only a handful knew about it.
An expert hangman was summoned.
On Nov 12, Kasab was told about his impending hanging by jail staff in Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail where he had been for four years. A week later, early on Nov 19, he was taken on a special flight to Pune.
When death came knocking two days later, he requested authorities that his mother be informed, and indicated he had no last wish. He did not want to make a will or any final testament.
Just 15 minutes after Kasab's death, the Operation X team conveyed to the state home department that the task was "successfully completed".
Disclosing some of the details, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Kasab did not leave behind any will.
The announcement of his death was made by state Home Minister R.R. Patil, stunning everybody with the suddenness with which the sentence had been implemented.
Words broke out between India and Pakistan.
In line with protocol, Islamabad was informed before Kasab was hanged, informed sources said. Pakistan was also told about an address in Pakistan that Kasab had given to Indian authorities, the sources said.
Shinde added: "Pakistan refused to accept the letter informing them of Kasab's hanging and they returned it. So we sent them a fax as well."
The Pakistani foreign office disagreed and described as "incorrect and baseless" the reports.
India's Deputy High Commissioner visited the Pakistan foreign office Tuesday with the note regarding Kasab's execution, and the Director General, South Asia, in the foreign affairs ministry, acknowledged the receipt, it said.
Notwithstanding the controversy with Pakistan, for the Manmohan Singh government, the hanging was strategically timed. It comes a day before the winter session of parliament and weeks ahead of Gujarat assembly election in December.
"Better late than never," said Shahnawaz Hussain of the opposition BJP. Other reactions poured in as well, most welcoming the death sentence, some calling for introspection.
For the survivors of the attack and the relatives of those killed, it was a closure of sorts.
As K. Unnikrishnan, the father of the late NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan, put it:
"... it is a step in the right direction. But a lot has to be done before perpetrators of the Mumbai attack are brought to justice (in Pakistan)."