MUMBAI - Dawood Ibrahim, one of Asia's most notorious mafia dons and India's
version of Osama bin Laden, is emerging as a key suspect in the funding and
logistical support for the November 26 terrorist strike on Mumbai.
Ibrahim, who tops the Mumbai police list of its 44 most wanted criminals, is
among 20 fugitives India has asked Pakistan to extradite following the multiple
attacks in Mumbai that killed nearly 200.
Pakistan, as it did with a similar list received after terrorists assaulted
India's parliament in 2001, has refused to deport the
fugitives, or even acknowledge their presence in the country.
The "most wanted" list reflects a deadly South Asian stew of terrorist
organization chieftains, crime gang bosses, murderers, hijackers and violent
leaders of separatist groups.
If Pakistan extradited Ibrahim, an Interpol-listed criminal, it may ease
tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. If not to India, Pakistan
could hand him over to Interpol, or the US, where enforcement authorities want
him as one of the world's most dangerous drug lords. Such a move would mollify
India's public anger against Pakistan's inactivity.
The catch is that India's most infamous mafia boss has stories that
powerbrokers on both sides of the border might not want the world to hear.
Therein lies a reason why Ibrahim apparently continues to live lavishly -
alternating between Karachi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to
various reports including from the Pakistan media.
Even as Pakistani authorities claim ignorance of Ibrahim's whereabouts, his
family is well settled in Pakistan society. Dawood's eldest daughter Mahrukh
married Junaid Miandad, eldest son of well-known former Pakistan cricket
captain Javed Miandad in July 2005. Javed Miandad is now the newly appointed
director-general of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The boss of "D" Company, as India calls Dawood Ibrahim's global criminal
organization, is the main suspect in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai that
killed over 300. He has been accused of executing the attack in collusion with
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Ibrahim is also suspected of orchestrating the November 26 terrorist strikes in
Mumbai through a businessman in Saudi Arabia said to be his frontman.
The Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists set sail from Karachi to Mumbai
in the ship MV Alpha, allegedly an Ibrahim-owned vessel. After being
warned of Indian navy patrols along the Indian coast, the LET terrorists
hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, Kuber, and murdered its crew except
for the navigator, Amarsinh Solanki.
The terrorists slit Solanki's throat five nautical miles off the Indian coast -
the Indian Navy found his body aboard the abandoned trawler with his hands tied
behind his back. Later, they linked up with an Ibrahim gang member in Mumbai
who provided them motorized inflatable rubber dinghies in which they landed
ashore after 9pm on November 26. Within 30 minutes, they struck pre-determined
targets in South Mumbai starting with the Leopold Cafe in Colaba.
The Mumbai police's Crime Branch has yet to make any official statement on "D"
Company's alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks. Still, there is
unofficial tacit admission from present and retired police officials that the
attacks could not have been carried out without Ibrahim's involvement.
"The Dawood Ibrahim involvement comes under criminal intelligence and none
speaks whoever has it," Kiran Bedi, a former inspector General of Police and
special commissioner of Police Intelligence, told Asia Times Online. Bedi, one
of Asia's most distinguished female police officers and 1994 Magsaysay Award
winner, was a prominent voice within the Indian police until she retired in
2007. "The only other option is the media's investigators who may have covered
him in the past and are still on the person concerned," she said.
Some senior Indian Coast Guard officials have privately admitted to Mumbai
journalists of Ibrahim's hand in the terrorist attacks, saying nobody knows the
sea around Mumbai better than the man who controls smuggling off Mumbai's
coast. The LET terrorists used resources provided by one of Ibrahim's pointmen
in Mumbai, who is said to be a major smuggler of diesel, drugs and petroleum
products along India's western coast.
Ibrahim's involvement featured in a media briefing at the White House on
December 1, even as US President George W Bush was in the Situations Room
receiving an update on the Mumbai attacks. Press Secretary Dana Perino neither
denied nor confirmed Ibrahim's role in the attacks, though she pointedly picked
at the reference to him in a long-winded question from one of the reporters
Fifty-two-year old Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar has 26 aliases - from Abdhul Hamid
Aziz to Sheik Ibrahim - and is known to have used at least 11 passports. He
started as small-time smuggler of gold and silver nearly 30 years ago in
Mumbai. Standing 5-feet, 4-inches, the diminutive son of a police constable
gradually built a worldwide criminal network said to number around 1,500. His
path to power has been littered with accusations of extortion, murder
contracts, counterfeit currency printing, smuggling, gambling, narcotics and
international cricket match-fixing.
Mumbai police officials in the Crime Branch have long been aware of Ibrahim's
heavy investment in real estate and the production of Bollywood movies. Police
said "D" Company men in Mumbai recently sent Ibrahim US$24 million from real
The US government set its sights on Ibrahim on October 16, 2003, with the US
Treasury Department marking him as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist".
"For the Ibrahim syndicate, the business of terrorism forms part of their
larger criminal enterprise, which must be dismantled," said Juan Zarate, the US
deputy assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, while
releasing Executive Order 13224.
On June 1, 2006, the US Statement on "Presidential Designation of Foreign
Narcotics Kingpins", named Ibrahim among "significant foreign narcotics
traffickers, their organizations and operatives worldwide" who were to be
"denied access to the US financial system and all trade and transactions
involving US companies and individuals".
Ibrahim's involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks may have already been
known to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as early as September.
According to information now circulating among the global intelligence
community, US signals intelligence (SIGINT) spotted a sharp increase in
"chatter" from Pakistan that indicated an operation was cooking. Field agents
In mid-September, the CIA station chief in New Delhi met his Indian counterpart
of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's overseas spy agency. The CIA
station chief is said to have specifically revealed that the Lashkar-e-Taiba
was planning a major attack that would come from the sea.
As late as November 18, RAW intercepted a satellite phone call made to a number
in Lahore, Pakistan, often used by Yusuf Muzammil, the military commander of
LET. The caller informed his Pakistan-based handlers that he was heading for
Mumbai with unspecified "cargo", in the ship belonging to Ibrahim.
When Interpol on July 21, 2006, arrested a leading Lashkar-e-Taiba operative,
Syed Abdul Karim, in Mombassa, on the East African coast, Indian and US
intelligence agents pointed to Ibrahim's growing connections with
Pakistan-based terror groups such as the LET and Harkat ul-Jihad Islami, as
well as al-Qaeda. Ibrahim is suspected of renting out his vast smuggling
network, and resources such as ships, material and corrupt officials, to
terrorist groups worldwide.
Following his trail, Mumbai police on December 2 interrogated "D" Company
gangsters in Arthur Road Jail. Those questioned included Ibrahim henchman Abu
Salem, Mustafa Dossa and Salim Fruit. The outcome of the interrogations is not
yet publicly known, but one account claims that incarcerated "D" Company
gangsters are now "terrified".
Where is Dawood Ibrahim? According to Mumbai police, his last known city
address is "33/36, Pakmodiya street, Haji Ismail, Musafirkhana, Dongri,
An Interpol-United Nations Security Council Special Notice QI K 135 03,
maintained by the UN Security Council al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee
(1267 Committee), gives Dawood Ibrahim's address as "White House, near Saudi
Mosque, Clifton, Karachi."
Karachi-based newspaper Newsline reported in a September 2001 cover story
titled "Karachi's Gang Wars" that two rival underworld gangs in the city were
both working for Ibrahim.
"After the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, Dawood Ibrahim and his team have made
Karachi their new home and base of operations," the Karachi Newsline report
said. "Living under fake names and IDs, and provided protection by government
agencies, they have built up their underworld empire in Karachi employing local
talent like Shoaib and Bholoo."
But Pakistan leaders, including current President Asif Zardari, have for years
dismissed Ibrahim's presence in Pakistan. Zardari even termed Dawood "a phantom
created by India".
Even so, a US Office of Foreign Assets Control statement from June 1, 2006
listed at least four addresses for Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi, Pakistan:
617 CP Berar Society, Block 7-8, Karachi
House No. 37, Street 30, Phase V, Defense Housing Authority, Karachi
House No. 10, Hill Top Arcade, Defense Housing Authority, Karachi
Moin Palace, 2nd Floor, Opp Abdullah Shah Gazi Dargah, Clifton, Karachi
The Foreign Assets Control list also included Ibrahim's Dubai address: White
House, Al-Wassal Road, Jumeira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
"Dawood's underworld connects and business ventures are extensive," according
to Lahore-based Pakistan journalist Amir Mir. "And he sublets his name in
Pakistan, Thailand, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Arab
Emirates, among other countries, to franchises in the fields of drug
trafficking and gambling dens."
Another Pakistan journalist Ghulam Hasnain described Ibrahim's life as a "king"
in Karachi: "His home is a palatial house spread over 6,000 square yards,
boasting a pool, tennis courts, snooker room and a private, hi-tech gym. He
wears designer clothes, drives top-of-the-line Mercedes and luxurious
four-wheel drives, sports a half-a-million rupee Patek Phillipe wristwatch, and
showers money on starlets and prostitutes."
The Karachi-based Hasnain explains why Ibrahim is valuable to the ISI and the
army: "Dawood is Pakistan's number one espionage operative. His men in Mumbai
help him get whatever information he needs for Pakistan. Rumor has it that
sometimes his men in Karachi accompany Pakistani intelligence agents to the
airports to scan arriving passengers and identify RAW agents."
Hasnain even claims Dawood once rescued Pakistan's Central Bank during a crisis
by providing a huge loan. For now, as international patience wears thin,
Pakistan could rescue itself from a worsening crisis by handing over Dawood
Ibrahim to Interpol or US law enforcement agencies, if not directly to India.