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Laughter in court as Mumbai trial begins

SOMETIMES breaking into laughter, the man accused of being the lone surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai attacks told an Indian court yesterday that he was from Pakistan and wanted legal assistance.

In February, police formally charged Mohammed Ajmal Kasab with "waging war" against India, and his trial began via a video link with his prison in Mumbai, where armed gunmen killed 166 people in a three-day rampage last November.

A bearded Kasab smiled and looked composed when the judge asked him whether he had received a copy of the charge sheet and wanted a lawyer.

"I don't have a lawyer," special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam quoted him as saying to the judge.

"He was smiling throughout and said that he was from Pakistan," Nikam said. "He started laughing when the judge asked him if he understood everything in the charge sheet."

The attacks on India's financial hub sparked renewed tensions between India and Pakistan. New Delhi says state agencies in Pakistan were involved in the attacks, Islamabad denies this and has asked for more evidence.

Police say Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who arrived in Mumbai by sea and rampaged through the financial hub, including five-star hotels and the main train station.

Police say Kasab was injured in a shootout.

He has since languished in jail, with Indian lawyers refusing to defend him.

"He has confessed that he is from Pakistan and has also asked the court for legal assistance," Rakesh Maria, the chief Indian investigator in the case, said.

Two Indians - Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin - who are accused of being members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group and of scouting Mumbai landmarks before the attacks, also appeared in court by video conference.

India has charged a total of 38 people in connection with the case. Most of the accused reside in Pakistan, the Indian government says.


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