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Mumbai - The sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was executed on Wednesday, nearly four years after 166 people were killed in a three-day rampage through India's financial capital, officials announced.
Pakistan-born Mohammed Kasab was hanged early on Wednesday at Yerwada jail in Pune in the western state of Maharashtra after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his pleas for mercy earlier this month.
“Kasab was shifted to Yerwada jail two days ago. He was hanged at 7.30 this morning (02.00 GMT),” Maharashtra home minister RR Patil told reporters in Mumbai.
“His execution is a fitting tribute to the victims of Mumbai attacks,” Patil added at a news conference.
Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that began on November 26, 2008, and lasted nearly three days.
He was sentenced to death in May 2010 after he was found guilty of a string of charges, including waging war against India, murder and terrorist acts.
Federal home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that the Indian government had informed its counterparts in Pakistan of Kasab's execution.
“The external affairs ministry has informed the Pakistan government about the execution,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
It was not immediately clear however whether the communication came before or after the execution.
The minister said that India was prepared to hand over the gunman's body to Pakistani authorities but it had received no such request so far.
“If someone demands the body, we give the body. No demand was made for the body,” he added.
During the 2008 attacks, the heavily armed Islamist gunmen stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station.
India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant organisation for training, equipping and financing the gunmen with support from “elements” in the Pakistani military.
Pakistan has admitted that the attacks were planned partly on its soil, but denies any official involvement. It charged seven alleged plotters behind the attacks in 2009 but has insisted more evidence is needed to convict them.
Kasab initially pleaded not guilty but later confessed, admitting he was one of the gunmen sent by the LeT.
At his trial, the prosecution produced fingerprint, DNA, eyewitness and TV footage evidence showing him opening fire and throwing grenades at Mumbai's main railway station in the bloodiest episode of the attacks.
When his trial began in 2009, Kasab at first appeared relaxed, joking or smiling at lawyers and reporters.
But he seemed increasingly sullen, withdrawn and even asleep as the trial progressed, prompting fears for his mental state. He showed no emotion in the dock when he was pronounced guilty of murder and waging war on India.
Kasab appealed in the Supreme Court claiming he did not receive a fair trial but his petition was struck down in August.
India has executed just one person in 15 years - a former security guard hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.
Prisoners can often languish for years on death row but there had been a huge clamour for Kasab's execution.
During his appeal, Kasab argued that he was denied proper legal representation and that some charges against him were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I was denied a fair trial,” Kasab said in a statement when his appeal hearing began in January. “I may be guilty of killing people and carrying out a terrorist act but I am not guilty of waging war against the state.” - AFP