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July 21, 2009

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Mumbai attacker shocks with guilty plea

THE lone surviving gunman from last year's Mumbai attacks made a surprise guilty plea yesterday, admitting to a role in the three-day rampage that killed 166 and raised tensions between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, 21, had been charged with 86 separate offences including murder and waging war against India for his role in the November 26-28 assault.

He was recording his confession in court, the police officer overseeing the probe into the attacks said.

"Yes, he has pleaded guilty in court today," senior police officer Rakesh Maria said. "He has confessed to his role and the fact that he was involved in the attacks that killed so many people during the attacks, the planning and the execution."

Kasab, who had pleaded not guilty in May, now faces a possible death sentence.

The only one of the 10 gunmen captured alive during the coordinated attacks on targets including two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and the train station, Kasab is among 38 charged in the attack. India said most of the accused are in Pakistan.

Kasab, who says he is from Faridkot in Pakistan, became the physical embodiment of India's contention that its neighboring rival had let its soil be used to plan and launch the attacks. That led India to break off five-year peace talk with Pakistan.

Closed-circuit video footage caught during the siege showed Kasab carrying an AK-47 assault rifle in Mumbai's main train station.

During a routine interrogation of witnesses yesterday, Kasab got up and told the court: "I have something to say. I want to confess," said prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

"Today we are very surprised that abruptly Kasab has taken this stand that he would like to confess his guilt," Nikam said. "In fact I was personally very shocked."

Kasab also admitted that the man in the closed-circuit video was of him, and he narrated the entire sequence of events, Nikam said.


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