Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, the only surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has been executed by hanging.
The Pakistani national’s plea for mercy to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was rejected earlier this month.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab was executed in prison in Pune early on Wednesday, the Home Ministry said.
The 60-hour siege of Mumbai began on 26 November 2008. Attacks on the railway station, luxury hotels and a Jewish cultural centre claimed 166 lives. Nine gunmen were also killed.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab and an accomplice carried out the assault on the main railway station, killing 52 people.
He was convicted of murder and other crimes in May 2010. The Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in August.
Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab was hanged in the Yerawada prison at 07:30 a.m.
“This is a tribute to all innocent people and police officers who lost their lives in this heinous attack on our nation,” RR Patil was quoted as telling reporters by the Associated Press news agency.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab did not leave behind a will and was buried inside the jail, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said.
Senior officials in Delhi said Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab’s family members had been informed about the execution “through a letter sent by courier”.
In Delhi, federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he signed Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab’s execution order on 7 November, two days after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his clemency petition.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, who had been held in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, was moved to Pune’s Yerawada prison two days ago, Prithviraj Chavan said.
“We kept secrecy. It was important to maintain secrecy in this matter,” Sushil Kumar Shinde said, adding that Pakistan had been informed of the execution.
The Indian government was under pressure to act against a man who carried out one of the deadliest attacks in the country.
But the swiftness and secrecy in which the execution took place would have come as a surprise to many, our correspondent adds.
Commenting on Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab’s execution, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan said: “We condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestation… We are willing to co-operate and work closely with all countries of the region to eliminate the scourge of terrorism.”
But Pakistan-based banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT], which was blamed for the Mumbai attacks, hailed Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab as a “hero”. He would “inspire other fighters to follow his path”, an unnamed LeT commander was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The Pakistani Taliban were “shocked” by the hanging, Reuters quoted Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan as saying.
There has been no information yet on Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab’s last few days, but his lawyer Raju Ramachandran, who argued his case in the Supreme Court, told Reuters that Qasab was a “worried man” when he last met him in August, before the court upheld his death sentence.
He was scared that he would be hanged and asked the lawyer: “Can you please help me get out of jail?”
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab was part of a 10-member group which arrived in Mumbai by sea on 26 November.
The men split into groups to attack various targets. Their siege of the Taj Hotel, Trident Hotel and a Jewish centre went on for more than two days.
Closed-circuit TV camera showed Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab and an accomplice opening fire on passengers at one of Mumbai’s busiest train stations, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated sharply after India blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks.
After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged that the assault had been partially planned on its territory and that Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab was a Pakistani citizen. Ties have been gradually improving since then.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab’s execution was the first in India since a man convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl was hanged in the eastern city of Calcutta in 2004.
Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab
- Pakistani citizen from Punjab province.
- Reports say he received little education, and spent his youth alternating between laboring and petty crime
- Was 21 years old when he carried out the attacks in Mumbai in 2008
- India says he was trained for Mumbai operation by Lashkar-e-Taiba group in a remote camp
- Captured on camera at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a slight figure in combat trousers and a sweatshirt, clutching an assault rifle
- Prosecutors said he had confessed but his lawyers then said his statement had been coerced, and it was retracted