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Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 17:40 UK

Mumbai bodies remain unclaimed

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Soldiers wait outside the Taj Mahal hotel in the last hours of the assault
Troops battled for three days to regain control of Mumbai

As an Indian court decides whether to accept the only alleged surviving Mumbai bomber's guilty plea, the bodies of nine dead gunmen remain unclaimed.

They are still lying unwanted in a local government hospital.

All nine of the alleged accomplices of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab were killed by the security forces during the attacks in November.

Officials in charge of the bodies say that they have yet to hear from the authorities what to do with them.

Setback

"We are awaiting instructions from the state as well as the central government," said Bhushan Gangrani, a senior government official in Maharashtra state - of which Mumbai (Bombay) is the capital.

TEN NAMED GUNMEN
Named militants. Mumbai police website
Nasir, alias Abu Umar (Nariman House)
Abu Ali (Taj Palace)
Soheb (Taj Palace)
Fahad Ullah (Oberoi)
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab(survived)
Bada Abdul Rehaman (above left, Taj Palace)
Abdul Rehaman Chota (above right, Oberoi)
Ismal Khan (CST station)
Babar Imaran (Nariman House)
Nazir, alias Abu Omer (Taj Palace)

The question of what should be done with the dead militants arose soon after the dust settled following November's attacks, in which more than 170 people died, including the nine gunmen.

It is now beginning to haunt the central government, because Pakistan flatly refused to take them despite India's argument that they should go back to the country from which they originated.

The bigger setback for the government came from Indian Muslims when they said they would not allow the bodies of the militants to be buried in their cemeteries.

It has now been been eight months since the bodies were first taken to the mortuary of a local government hospital. And still there are no signs of any takers.

Muslim community leaders insist that the militants cannot be called Muslims because they have brought disrepute to Islam by killing innocent civilians.

Ibrahim Tai, the president of the Muslim Council Trust which looks after the social and religious affairs of Indian Muslims, told the BBC that his community's stand in November was not to allow the bodies to be buried in Muslim burial grounds and that stand has not changed.

"These dead militants were involved in a bloodbath," he said, "they killed innocent people. There's no place for them in our cemeteries."

Instead Mr Tai urged Pakistan to take the bodies and "bury them in their homeland".

This appears to be one of the rarest occasions when Indian Muslims have openly defied "Islamic terrorism".

While the bodies have been embalmed there are also worries about their long-term condition. Officials warn that they will start to decompose in a few months.

A suggestion from some quarters, to donate them to medical colleges, has been rejected by the government.



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