Sunday, November 30, 2008

Did Criminal Mastermind Stage Mumbai Nightmare?

Dawood -- Did Criminal Mastermind Stage Mumbai Nightmare?


New America Media,


By Yoichi Shimatsu,

November 28, 2008


The coordinated nighttime assault against seven major

targets in Mumbai is reminiscent of the 1993 bombings

that devastated the Bombay Stock Exchange. The recent

attack bears the fingerprints of the same criminal

mastermind - meticulous preparation, ruthless execution

and the absence of claims or demands.


The eerie silence that accompanied the blasts are the

very signature of Ibrahim Dawood, now a multi-

millionaire owner of a construction company in Karachi,

Pakistan. His is hardly a household name around the

world like Osama bin Laden. Across South Asia, however,

Dawood is held in awe and, in a twist on morals,

admired for his belated conversion from crime boss to

self-styled avenger.


His rise to the highest rungs of India's underworld

began from the most unlikely position as the diligent

son of a police constable in the populous commercial

capital then known as Bombay.


His childhood familiarity with police routine and inner

workings of the justice system gave the ambitious

teenager an unmatched ability to outwit the authorities

with evermore clever criminal designs. Among the

unschooled ranks of Bombay gangland, Ibrahim emerged as

the coherent leader of a multi-religious mafia, not

just due to his ability to organize extortion campaigns

and meet payrolls, but also because of his merciless

extermination of rivals.


Dawood, always the professional problem-solver, gained

the friendship of aspiring officers in India's

intelligence service known as Research and Analysis

Wing (RAW). He soon attracted the attention of American

secret agents, then supporting the Islamic mujahideen

in their battle against the Soviet occupiers of

Afghanistan. Dawood personally assisted many a U.S.

deep-cover operation funneling money to Afghan rebels

via American-operated casinos in Kathmandu, Nepal.


Eager to please all comers, Dawood occasionally got his

wires crossed, providing travel documents and other

amenities to Islamist airplane hijackers. In response,

Washington spymasters tried to unofficially "impound"

his investment in the Nepalese casinos. Dawood's fury

is legendary among locals. An honorable businessman, he

held to the strict belief that a deal is a deal and

there can be no reneging for any reason.


As Bombay moved into the league of Asia's premier

cities - hotel rates and apartment rentals are the

highest in the region - Dawood could have led a

comfortable life as top dog. Instead he suffered a

spasm of conscience, a newfound moral outrage, when

rightwing Hindu nationalists destroyed a mosque in

northern India in 1992, slaying 2000 Muslim

worshippers, mostly women and children.


One a day in the following May, his henchmen set off

bombs across Bombay, killing more than 300 people. His

personal convictions had - uncharacteristically -

overcome his dispassionate business ethics. Reeling in

shock, his top lieutenant, a Hindu, attempted to

assassinate Dawood. A bloody intra-gang war followed,

but as always Dawood triumphed, even while away in

exile in Dubai and Karachi.


In the ensuing decade, at the height of violence in

Kashmir, Dawood sent his heavily armed young trainees

by boat from Karachi on covert landings onto Indian

beaches. This same method was used in the Mumbai

assault with more boats, seven craft according to

initial navy reports.


Why the timing of this raid, on the dawn of

Thanksgiving in America? The leader of India's

opposition and former deputy Prime Minister L. K.

Advani had long sought Dawood's extradition from

Pakistan, a move opposed by the then military

government in Islamabad. With the restoration of

civilian rule, the new Pakistani prime minister

(Gillani) consented to New Delhi's deportation request.


Washington and London both agreed with the India's

legal claim and removed the longstanding "official

protection" accorded for his past services to Western

intelligence agencies. U.S. diplomats, however, could

never allow Dawood's return. He simply knows too much

about America's darker secrets in South Asia and the

Gulf, disclosure of which could scuttle U.S.-India

relations. Dawood was whisked away in late June to a

safe house in Quetta, near the tribal area of

Waziristan, and then he disappeared, probably back to

the Middle East.


As in the case of America's Afghan war protégé Osama

bin Laden, the blowback to U.S. covert policy came

suddenly, this time with spectacular effects in Mumbai.

The assault on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel will probably

go down as the first lethal blow to the incoming Obama

administration. The assailants, who spoke Punjabi and

not the Deccan dialect, went to a lot of trouble to

torch the prestigious hotel, which is owned by the Tata

Group. This industrial giant is the largest business

supporter of the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation

agreement, and Tata is now planning to become a nuclear

power supplier. The Clintons, as emissaries of Enron,

were the first to suggest the nuclear deal with New

Delhi, so Obama inherits the Mumbai catastrophe even

before he takes office.


Dawood, ranks fourth on Forbes' list of the world's 10

most wanted fugitives from the law. After the new round

of attacks that killed more than 100 people and laid

waste top five-star hotels, Dawood can now contend for

the No.1 spot in the coming months and years. In

contrast to the fanatic and often ineffective bin

Laden, Dawood is professional on all counts and

therefore a far more formidable adversary. Yet some in

Pakistan's military intelligence agency say that Dawood

is dead, killed in July. This version of events is much

the same as a variation of the bin Laden story. If

true, then his underlings are carrying on the mission

of an outlaw transfigured into a legend.



Yoichi Shimatsu. Former editor of The Japan Times in

Tokyo and journalism lecturer at Tsinghua University in

Beijing,, Shimatsu has covered the Kashmir crisis and Afghan War.


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