Surviving Gunman In Mumbai Attacks Confesses

The only surviving gunman from last year's terrorist attack on Mumbai formally confessed his guilt Monday. Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab surprised Indian court officials when he reportedly rose during questioning of witnesses and said, "I want to confess."

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In India, only one of the gunmen in last year's Mumbai terrorist attacks survived. For the last three months, he's been on trial and for the last three months, he's denied his guilt. Today he changed his story, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES: He's the smartly dressed, clean-cut young man everyone saw on TV. You remember, the one photographed, striding through Mumbai's main railway station, sporting a rucksack and an assault rifle. More than 160 people were killed over three days in Mumbai. More than a third died at that train terminus, randomly mown down by machinegun fire. For three months, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab has been on trial inside a high security prison in Mumbai. If convicted, he could be hanged. Today, Kasab stood up and addressed the judge. Sir, I plead guilty to my crime, he said. There were gasps of surprise. Multiple news sources say Kasab then launched into an account of what happened.

He described how he and nine other gunmen left the Pakistani city of Karachi by boat, hijacked a trawler, killed its crew and set sail for Mumbai. There they attacked a cafe, a Jewish center, two five star hotels and the railway terminus. If true, the 21-year-old Kasab's testimony provides an intriguing insight into how he turned to violence. He said he worked as a shop assistant in Pakistan. Unhappy with his meager wages, he and a friend decided to become professional thieves. They made contact with a group of Islamist radicals, hoping to be given weapons. The Islamists hooked them up with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group believed to be behind the Mumbai attacks.

News of Kasab's plea change made headlines in India. Kasab spent the last eight months in solitary confinement. He reportedly said his confession wasn't coerced. No one expected it, not even his own lawyer. The judge said there'll be no immediate judgment. The trial's expected to resume tomorrow.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.

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