Op X-ecution: Kasab hanged, buried

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab was executed and buried in Pune's Yerawada Central Prison on Wednesday, five days before the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in which 165 people were killed.

The Pakistani terrorist, the lone surviving 26/11 gunman, was hanged to death at 7.30 am, soon after The Indian Express reported in its print and online editions that President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected his mercy petition.

Kasab was moved to Yerawada prison from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail on Monday night as part of a top secret manouvre codenamed Operation X.

"The transfer was done with moderate security but with utmost secrecy. A senior officer from the Mumbai Police Crime Branch along with a senior officer from the Maharashtra prisons department coordinated the operation," a highly placed source in the prisons department said.

"Several Crime Branch officers travelled with Kasab to Pune in private vehicles. He was lodged in the high security Anda Cell of Yerawada prison until the time he was hanged," the source said, referring to an elliptical cell which has 18 barracks.

Fifteen minutes after Kasab was hanged, a message was sent to Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil saying Operation X had been successful, sources said. Patil announced the news at a press conference soon afterward.

No hangman was available for the execution, which was carried out by jail officials. "Prison staff completed the entire procedure as per laid down rules. The lever was pulled by a jail officer," an official at Yerawada prison said.

Yerawada and Nagpur Central Jail are the only two prisons in Maharashtra that have facilities for carrying out an execution. The last surviving hangman of the prisons department died recently. The last hanging in Maharashtra before Wednesday was carried out on July 13, 1995, when Amrutlal Joshi was executed for killing a 77-year-old man in suburban Khar in Mumbai.

Kasab was buried at an undisclosed spot on the grounds of the jail around 9.30 am under the supervision of a qualified maulvi, officials said. Late on Tuesday evening, the external affairs ministry had communicated through a special messenger that Kasab's family had not expressed interest in collecting his body.

Detailing the events of the last two weeks, Home Minister Patil said the date and time of the execution had been fixed by a sessions court on September 11. Kasab filed his mercy petition to the President a day later, which the President rejected on November 8. Since the process was expedited, the date of the hanging was not changed, Patil said.

After his mercy plea was turned down, Kasab was informed in Hindi and Urdu that he would be executed. "He did not express any will. He has signed the document stating he has no will," Patil said.

The minister said that many individuals had expressed the desire to hang Kasab for free, the government chose to appoint a person to conduct the execution. The hangman was offered Rs 5,000 as per a new decision. Till recently, hangmen were given Rs 10 under rules framed in 1960.

"The chief medical officer of the jail declared Kasab dead. Officials of the prisons department were present during the execution. The rope was new and had been soaked in fat so that it got softer for a smoother knot, and did not cause wounds. Kasab was mumbling something at the time of the hanging. He said he did not have any last wish," a source said.

The bodies of nine others who came with Kasab to Mumbai and were killed during the operation by the security forces were buried at an undisclosed location two years ago.

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