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Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 18:55 UK

Shock and surprise in Mumbai court

Mumbai gunman, identified as Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab went into detail about events at Mumbai's main railway station

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab's confession took everyone by surprise - even his own legal team.

As news of his confession spread, the Mumbai courtroom became packed with reporters.

The shock came on Monday morning, when the court was in the process of recording evidence. The suspect told the judge he wanted to say something.

After speaking to his lawyer very briefly, Mr Qasab said: "I accept my guilt."

Judge M L Tahiliyani asked him to what was he pleading guilty. Mr Qasab admitted that he had carried out the firing at Mumbai's railway station in November 2008.

MAIN QASAB CHARGES
Waging war on India
Murder
Conspiracy to murder
Destabilising the government
Kidnap
Robbery
Smuggling and possessing illegal arms and explosives

The judge then heard arguments from prosecution and defence lawyers over whether a confession could be recorded at this stage of the trial.

When it was noted by the court that he could indeed make the confession, Mr Qasab proceeded to give a detailed account of how he and nine others came to Mumbai from Karachi last November, and the training that led up to it.

Speaking for several hours, he first described what happened when he and accomplice Abu Ismail entered the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station.

"In CST, Abu Ismail and I started firing at the public there with our AK-47 rifles. Ismail was throwing grenades also. I was firing," he said.

"We went ahead towards the hall. The police caught up with us at the time and started firing at us. We retaliated. Ismail took position behind the trains which were parked. I took position behind him. I fired at the police."

He then described how they left the station and headed to the Cama hospital - confronting four people in one of the wards.

"Ismail told them to lie down first with their hands on the back. While three agreed, the fourth didn't. Ismail told me to lock them up in the bathroom. I told them not to create any commotion."

From the hospital, he said, the two men were involved in a gun battle with the police before his arrest at the city's sea front.

Mr Qasab also told the court about how he got to know of the "weapon training", how he joined the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and how he completed different levels of training before he was sent to Mumbai.

We were not expecting this. We were all shocked when he made a plea of guilt
Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam

Seeming to be unaware of the exact plan, he told the court: "I asked Abu Ismail how will we go back. He said, you do not worry about it."

During his description of the training Mr Qasab gave names of other people suspected of involvement in the plot, such as Abu Hamza, Abu Kahfa, Zaki Ur Rehman Lakhvi and Abu Jundal. He said Abu Jundal was an Indian.

He said two people ran away in the last stage of training.

'Right direction'

Mr Qasab, dressed in the traditional white pyjamas known as kurta, was calm and precise in his descriptions.

The mastermind behind the 26/11 conspiracy will come before the world
Ashok Chavan
Maharashtra chief minister

He smiled several times during the recording of his statement, gesturing with his hands as he described places and recounted incidents.

At times, when the court asked him to repeat certain statements, he would listen keenly to what was being recorded.

"We were not expecting this. We were all shocked when he made a plea of guilt," said prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

"It is for the court to decide whether to accept his plea or not. It was all of a sudden. The court is now recording his plea."

The defendant's lawyer, Abbas Kazmi, said he was not aware of his client's plan.

"I barely spoke to him on Friday and did not meet him over the weekend. In fact I was working on getting different books for him, which he wanted to read. I don't know when he decided to make a confession."

Mr Qasab himself told the court he did not confess earlier as Pakistan had not admitted he was a Pakistani national. When he came to know that Pakistan had accepted that he belonged to Pakistan, he decided to confess.

The court said the recording of his statement is now complete and the prosecution and defence can make their statements on Tuesday. The court will then decide whether to accept his plea.

The chief minister of Maharashtra state, Ashok Chavan, welcomed the change of plea.

The confession meant the case would come to an end soon and "the mastermind behind the 26/11 conspiracy will come before the world," he said.



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