'I was not happy about killing children'

Published : Sep 14, 2002 00:00 IST

Interview with a Pakistani terrorist.

With his fresh prison haircut, and lean from the weeks spent on the mountains of Poonch, Mohammad Abdullah seems even younger than the 17 years he claims to be. To the 28 people he killed in Jammu's Rajiv Nagar this July, the terrorist, who operated under the code-name Abu Talah, must have seemed considerably more fearsome. In this exclusive interview to Praveen Swami, the recently arrested Mohammad Abdullah discusses his background and training. He also casts interesting light on the possible links between the Lashkar-e-Toiba and elements with Taliban backgrounds. Excerpts:

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to join the Lashkar-e-Toiba?

I grew up in the district of Multan, in Marhal Asman Wali tehsil (in Pakistan). I went to a local government school up to the eighth standard. I was attracted to the organisation because of the Lashkar-e-Toiba because of the speeches one of their members, Abu Masood, used to give during our school assemblies and physical training periods. He used to tell us that thousands of Muslims were being butchered in Kashmir, and that their homes were destroyed and their women were being raped. It made me very angry. On top of it all, it was very hot, and the thought of doing something adventurous in the mountains was very attractive.

What were you taught after you joined the Lashkar-e-Toiba?

I was sent for training to our main camp, Aska, near Muzaffarabad. During the first course, a 21-day programme called the Daura Aam, I was taught the basics of the use of weapons such as the Kalashnikovs and machine guns. Then, I was selected for the 10-week Daura Khaas, during which I learned the theory and principles behind the use of these weapons, as well as how to set off explosives and operate rocket launchers. Our most senior instructor, in charge of all our training camps, was Nasser Javed, a Pakistani who had fought for many years in Afghanistan against the Soviets. He had also fought with the Taliban but had come back to Pakistan to help the Jehad in Kashmir.

Were there many people from Afghanistan in your camps?

In my Daura Aam, almost all of us, about 40 to 45 people, were from Pakistan. In our Daura Khaas, there were others, but I am not sure who was from where. One, I remember, said he was from Doda. But there were other camps where people from abroad were trained. One night, when we were sent on a night trek from Aska, we came across a tented camp. The guards there told us in broken Urdu that we were not to come in. They spoke to each other in a language I did not understand. Maybe it was Arabic, or something else.

When did you enter India?

I came here in the summer of 2001, on the orders of Abu al-Kama, the supreme commander of Lashkar for all of Jammu. We went to an Army camp near Tattapani, which is near Kotli in Pakistan. From there we crossed by foot, with the help of local guides, into the mountains near Poonch. Finally, we moved on to Surankote.

Is that where you planned the Rajiv Nagar killings?

Yes. Abu Dujana and I were first told by our district commander, Abu Abdullah, to prepare for an attack on the Army headquarters near Jammu. Then, he told us that we would be attacking a police station instead. Finally, he gave us orders to attack the Hindus at Rajiv Nagar.

You killed 14 children. Four others who died were poor elderly people. How did you justify this massacre to yourself?

I was not happy about it, and even told Abu Abdullah to send someone else. But he said it was necessary to establish our dehshat (terror).

So, you did not really want to kill innocent people?

No. In fact, I did not really know what we were going to do until Altaf Shah, who brought us to Jammu, told us that it was a Hindu basti (neighbourhood).

According to police investigators, you were more enthusiastic about your task than Abu Dujana. You emptied all the four magazines you were carrying, while he fired only three, and you had to borrow one from him later. And you threw four grenades to his three.

I had my orders. I had to do as I was told. It was not a question of liking the job.

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