Salem funded Atta's 9/11 suicide squad

Pramod Kumar Singh

Monday Nov. 14, 2005, New Delhi: Mafia don Abu Salem was not only involved in arranging arms and ammunitions for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, he was also instrumental in providing funds to Mohammad Atta, the leader of al-Qaeda's 9/11 suicide squad of hijackers.

Investigations have revealed that Salem masterminded many sensational kidnappings in concert with Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT). Aftab Ansari, a key HuJI operative who masterminded the American Centre attacks in Kolkata provided men and logistics in selecting the targets.

It has now been revealed that the conspiracy to kidnap Partho Roy Burman, the owner of Khadim Shoes, Kolkata was hatched by Salem and Ansari. The duo extorted over US $100,000 for the safe release of Burman. Of this, Salem paid a substantial amount to Atta during his stay in Boston.

The Homeland Security department of the US is in possession of proof in this regard. The fact that Salem provided funds to Atta was also proved during the subsequent investigations launched by the FBI to identify the source of money arranged for the planning of the World Trade Centre attack.

When Indian intelligence briefed them, US authorities were not willing to believe that Salem was in the US and was on a property-buying spree in Florida, Miami and New York. But wiser after the 9/11 attack, the Americans helped Portugal Police in nabbing Salem and his wife Monica Bedi who were travelling with forged travel papers.

It is believed that the sensational kidnapping of two Rajkot (Gujarat) based diamond merchants Bhaskar Parikh and Paresh Shah was also planned by Salem and executed by Ansari. The Gujarat Police rescued Parikh in an encounter in Ahmedabad but the kidnappers managed to smuggle Shah to a hideout in Delhi and extorted crores of rupees for his safe release. The money allegedly went to Omar Sheikh Sayyed, the London educated hardcore HuJI terrorist.

These kidnappings were part of the bigger conspiracy hatched by LeT to fund terrorist activities in India. It would be pertinent to mention that LeT had also planned to kidnap Indian cricket icons Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly besides seeking the release of HuJI idealogue Nasrullah Langariyal now lodged in the high security Jodhpur jail. The conspiracy was however foiled by the timely action of Indian security agencies.

CBI, which is interrogating Salem is mulling whether to conduct narco-analytical or brain mapping tests to read the mind of the don who was privy to many conspiracies hatched the behest of his one time mentor Dawood and ISI handlers. Though Salem is talking to interrogators, there are chances that he may retract in court. By taking him for the brain-mapping test, the agency wants to build a tight case against Salem, sources in the CBI said on Sunday.