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Indian Court Convicts Pakistani Man Of Mumbai Attacks


Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, faces a possible death sentence when he's back in court on May 4.
A special court in India today pronounced a verdict of guilty on Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, the sole known survivor of the band of 10 terrorists who carried out the bloody attacks on Mumbai in November 2008.

Kasab was found guilty on the most serious of a total of 86 charges -- namely, murder and waging war against India, both of which carry the death penalty.

India's home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, said the verdict was a message to Islamabad not to "export terrorism to India."

Reporters in the court say Kasab, now aged 22, stood impassively while the judgment was read out. He wore a long white shirt typical of his native Punjab.

In delivering the verdict, the judge said he had been found guilty of waging war against India and of killing people at the city's main train station, plus killing government officials and abetting the other nine terrorists.

Kasab took part in the bloodiest single incident of the three-day rampage -- the attack on the railway station that killed more than 50 people and wounded more than 100. Other targets were several luxury hotels, a restaurant, and a Jewish center.

The verdict follows a year-long trial at which some 650 witnesses were called. The prosecution was confident of gaining a conviction as it submitted in evidence DNA tests, fingerprints, and video of Kasab inside the station, as well as scores of eyewitness accounts.

The judge is expected to formally hand down the death sentence at a court session on May 4. However, journalists say a lengthy appeal through the Indian courts system is likely.

'He Should Have Been Hanged'

The strength of feeling generated by the Mumbai attacks can be gauged from the comment of Madhuri Pawar, the wife of a police officer who was wounded fighting the militants.

"[Kasab] should have been punished severely at the time. There is no point in waiting for two years. He should have been hanged then," she said.

Two Indian men who were tried along with Kasab on charges of being members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and helping to carry out reconnaissance before the attacks were acquitted.

Kasab initially pleaded not guilty, but in the middle of his trial he made a confession, admitting being one of the 10 gunmen trained, equipped, and financed by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group.

Later still, he retracted his confession, claiming the police had framed him.

The Mumbai attacks severely strained relations between India and its Muslim neighbor Pakistan, causing New Delhi to break off peace talks with Islamabad. India has always believed that official security circles in Pakistan had contacts to the Laskkar-e-Taiba extremists, something Islamabad denies.

However a thaw between the two nuclear-armed neighbors appears to be under way. At a meeting last week, the prime ministers of the two countries instructed their officials to take steps to normalize relations.

compiled from agency reports