LeT had set up high tech command centre for 26/11

US counter-terrorism officials say 26/11 masterminds were still at large.

Washington: Stocked with computers, televisions and voice-over-Internet phones, top commanders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had set up a control room from where they controlled and directed the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, a US report has said.

"Lashkar had set up a remote command post in a safe house or a hotel that US and Indian officials believe was in Lahore or Karachi," The Washington Post and ProPublica reported.

The new disclosures come as US counter-terrorism officials said that masterminds of the terror attack were still at large.

While attention has been focused on Pakistani-American terror convict David Headley, the real mastermind of the 26/11 attacks was Sajid Mir, according to the new investigative report.

Pakistan is unwilling to arrest the elusive mastermind Mir, who is wanted in four continents, because the LeT terrorist is "well connected" and "too powerful", US officials said.

Giving details of the control or war room set up by the Lashkar to coordinate the Mumbai terror attacks, the papers said, "The room was stocked with computers, televisions, voice-over-Internet phones from a New Jersey company and satellite phones that were manned by (Sajid) Mir and five other handlers.”

"It was Sajid Mir, who allegedly led Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba`s bloody siege on Mumbai in November 2008," the Post said.

Before the attack, Mir had spent two years using Headley to conduct meticulous reconnaissance on Mumbai, according to investigators and court documents.

The report said Indian intelligence officers frantically checked known phone numbers associated with Lashkar and were able to intercept and record nearly 300 calls.

"Mir`s voice dominated the conversations, according to officials and documents. Thanks to Headley, he knew the targets inside-out," the report said.

Using the alias Wassi, Mir oversaw the assault on the Taj hotel, the prime target, where 32 people died.

The phone handlers in Pakistan made the attack interactive, relaying reports about television coverage to the gunmen and even searching the Internet for the name of a banker they had taken hostage.

After killing 10 people at the historic Leopold Cafe, a second assault team joined the two gunmen at the Taj, it said.

"They wanted to see the Taj Mahal burn," a senior US law enforcement official was quoted as saying.

"It was all choreographed with the media in mind," the official said.

Mir chided a gunman who grew distracted by the luxuries of a suite instead of setting the hotel ablaze, according to one intercepted call, the report said.

"We can`t watch if there aren`t any flames," said Mir, who was viewing the action on live television.

"Where are they?" "It`s amazing," the gunman exclaimed. The windows are huge. It`s got two kitchens, a bath and a little shop."

"Start the fire, my brother," Mir insisted.

"Start a proper fire, that`s the important thing," Mir was quoted as saying according to the investigative report. At the nearby Oberoi Hotel, two attackers hunted Americans and Britons, demanding passports at gunpoint, according to US investigators, it said.

"The gunmen killed 33 people at the Oberoi, then took refuge in Room 1856.”

"Their handlers instructed them to divide ammunition magazines and keep their weapons on burst mode to conserve bullets.”

"After one gunman was killed, Mir encouraged the other to go out in a blaze of glory," the report said.

"For your mission to end successfully, you must be killed," Mir said in one of the intercepted calls.

"God is waiting for you in heaven... Fight bravely, and put your phone in your pocket, but leave it on. We like to know what`s going on," Mir was quoted as saying.

PTI

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