On November 26, 2008, Islamist terrorists landed in small dinghies on the shores of Mumbai, India and, over the next three days killed 164 and wounded 308.
Most of the attackers were killed by the police and army in fierce battles.
On Wednesday, at 7:30 a.m. local time, Indian authorities hanged the lone survivor of the terrorist squads that attacked Mumbai. Mohammad Ajmal Kasab was part of a terrorist group Lashkar-e -Taiba that was based in Pakistan. The attacks caused — and are still the source of — a chill in relations between India and Pakistan. In this report, Al Jazeera notes the response from Pakistan to Kasab’s execution: “If all judicial procedures were followed then the decision is acceptable.”
India has executed 52 people since independence but, according to Al Jazeera, it has not executed anyone since 2004. Heather Timmons, writing in the New York Times India Ink blog, sets Kasab’s execution against what the headline says is “a wave of executions in South Asia” and suggests that India has executed someone within the last decade.
Kasab’s execution comes five days ahead of the anniversary of the attacks which have the same hold in Indian society that the attacks of September 11, 2001 have in the United States.
Three years ago, on the one-year anniversary of that attack, I was among the Canadian reporters who covered the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Mumbai. There, he and his wife Laureen toured the Nariman House Jewish Community Centre, whose occupants had been specifically targeted by these Muslim terrorists. At the time of our visit, in 2009, this Chabad House, had been left essentially unchanged since the attacks. The Harpers (along with the reporters covering their visit) could see the bloodstains, destroyed religious icons, and bulletholes left behind where Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, who was six months pregnant, were murdered along with four other hostages. Wikipedia notes that, according to radio transmissions picked up by Indian intelligence, the attackers “would be told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews.” Injuries reported on some of the bodies indicate they may have been tortured.
As is usually the case when Harper travels, the media and the prime minister stayed in separate hotels. Our hotel turned out to be the The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. Not only is the Taj among the finest hotels I’ve ever stayed in, it was also a specific target for the November 26 attackers. The hotel’s general manager lost his wife and children in the attacks. We met him and he shared his memories with us.
Now, I’m normally an opponent of the death penalty. But as I read the news this morning of Kasab’s execution and reflected on the scenes of massacre I saw at Hariman House or remember listening to that hotel manager’s story, it is difficult for me to to avoid coming to the same conclusion the Pakistan government did: “If all judicial procedures were followed then the decision is acceptable.”