The chilling tale of how a reasonably bright college student descended into the dark world of jihadi terrorism.
Sabahuddin Ahmed played a key role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. He was the crucial Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative in Nepal, responsible for planning many attacks in India. He has been charged with three major attacks -- 26/11, the January 1, 2008 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Uttar Pradesh and the December 29, 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.
Sabahuddin, who was arrested in February 2008, is currently being tried in a special court in Mumbai, along with Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist captured during the Mumbai attacks, and Fahim Ansari, an Indian national who conducted reconnaissance of like terror targets in Mumbai.
A dossier prepared by the Intelligence Bureau and investigating agencies spells out who exactly Sabahuddin Ahmed is.
Sabahuddin Ahmed alias Saba alias Farhan, aged 25 years, is a resident of village and post office Gandhwar, police station Sakri, Madhubani district, Bihar.
This is his confession to the investigating agencies:
"I was born in Madhubani, Bihar, on January 27, 1984. My father Shabbir Ahmed is an agriculturist and my mother, Shagufta Bano, is a housewife. My father is a panchayat samiti member in the Rahika block since 2001. I have two younger brothers -- Imaduddin, 23, and Shahbuddin, 15.
I started my preliminary education in the Darsgah Islami School. Later I joined the J M High School at Kumatul district and passed my SSLC with a first class.
I joined the Aligarh Muslim University, UP, in the year 2000 for 10+2 in physics, chemistry and biology. During my studies, I was staying in room no 28, B Block, Allam Iqbal Hall of the AMU.
One of my classmates, Shariq Anwar of Lavam village, Bihar, suddenly disappeared. His father came to the university in search of him. I offered to help and during this period his father received a call saying that they should call off the search and not to create a scene in the university.
We realised that Anwar was in touch with a person by the name Ajmal, who was a member of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Later we got a letter from Anwar stating that there is no need to search for him since he was taking up the cause of jihad.
Later I was approached by a person by the name Athiq who asked me if there was any complaint against Anwar. I said no.
The Gujarat riots made a big difference to me. I used to meet with a school friend by the name Faraaz Ahmed who was with me in AMU. He introduced me to a person by the name Ajmal with whom we used to have discussions about the riots.
I was influenced by the way in which Ajmal used to speak. Ajmal realised that I had become emotional and I could be used for jihadi activities.
I was then taken by Ajmal to meet Athiq, who was residing in the Jamalpur area of Aligarh. He was running a coaching centre called Fathiq Coaching Centre. He was about 5.8 feet tall, sported a beard and moustache. I later realised that he was the same person who came and inquired about Anwar.
There was a lot of discussion about jihad and often we referred to the Quran. I was finally convinced that jihad is a must in a situation such as this and there was a need to take revenge for the violence in Gujarat.
During the first week of March 2002, Ajmal took me to a person named Salim Salar (Doctor). Doctor was into sending people to Pakistan via Kashmir for training for jihad. I met Doctor at his house in Jamalpur next to railway line and he asked me as to why I was interested in going for jihad. I just told him that I was interested.
I met him again the next day and he took me to Sulaiman Hall where he arranged a meeting with Basharat Jaffrey, who was basically from Surankot in Poonch district. I was told that this man would take me to Kashmir. I was asked to return on March 12 and told that I would be taken to Kashmir.
On March 12, I went to Doctor's house carrying a small bag with clothes in it. I was given a letter in Urdu which I was asked to hide in my shoe. I was supposed to hand over this letter to a person in Kashmir. I was then taken to the railway station where Basharat was waiting along with his aunt and daughter.
We reached Jammu on March 13 and for the next two days we stayed in Bashrat's relative's house. From there we went to Rajouri district and stayed in a hotel that night. Next day we reached Surankot by bus at noon and went to Basharat's house. After dropping his aunt and daughter, we left for Thana Mandi in Rajouri district.
Close to that place there is a place called Shahdra. From there we continued our journey by walk since it was a mountainous terrain. At this time Bashrat threatened me that if I revealed anything to the police in case I was arrested, he would destroy my family.
He also said that in case both were caught, I had to tell them that he was a doctor and I was accompanying him as his assistant to treat a patient.
After reaching our destination, we stayed a house in a village. Two militants armed with AK-47 rifles visited the house and spoke to Basharat. Later they took me to their hideout for which we had to trek for more than three hours.
Both of them introduced themselves as Abu Hanzala Adnan and Abu Umar Qatada. Both were Pakistan nationals and aged between 22 and 23 years. When I reached another house there were two more militants, Abu Saifulla and Salahuddin Manipur. We stayed there for a week.
From there I was taken to Abu Muslim Jarrar, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander of Rajouri. I handed over the letter given to me by Doctor. I then returned to the hideout. Over here I was trained to dismantle and assemble the AK-47 and also was trained to use hand grenades.
After five days, Hanzala came back to the hideout. I was then introduced to three more Lashkar militants, Abu-Al-Qasim, Abu Hamza and Abu Zarrar. I was taken to a different hideout where I spent 15 days. Here was I was given an AK-47 rifle with a magazine containing 45 rounds.
After 15 days I was taken back to the earlier hideout by Hamza and was handed over to Qatada who was present with another militant Abu Jundal. After training for a couple of days, I was taken to Hilkaka where there were around 50 militants. The commander here was Abu Fahadulla.
From here we were asked to go to Pakistan. We waked through Poonch and through several jungles until we were close to the Pakistan army post. We were received by the Pakistan army who took away our arms and ammunition. They gave us breakfast and registered our names and addresses.
We were then taken by the Pakistan army to a point from where the Lashkar men took us. We were taken to a Lashkar camp in a place called Forward Kahota in PoK. This is where militants are trained and later sent into Jammu and Kashmir.
We stayed here for two days and then were taken to meet a Colonel Musa who was in the Inter Services Intelligence. However, he was not there in the camp.
I was then taken to Kotli and from there we reached a place called Ibne-Taima (code for a Lashkar camp). Here we met with Abu-Al-Qama and Azam Cheema, who later trained me.
I was then trained rigorously in this camp. We had to wake up at 3 am and offer prayers. We then had another prayer at 4.30 am and this was followed by physical training. We were then given breakfast following which we had to undergo arms training. We were trained here for four months after which we were taken to an ISI camp in Mianwali. Here we underwent training for 50 days in firing.
When they thought that I was ready, I was introduced to a Major Dogar who took me to Lahore airport. Before I left for the airport I also met Colonel Kiyani. He told me that I should visit my country and establish myself. I flew from Lahore to Doha, Abu Dhabi, and then to Kathmandu, from where I entered India.
I then travelled by road back to my house. My parents were shocked to see me back again. They told me that various cases of my being missing had been lodged. I told them I had gone away to Delhi to prepare for my exams and also worked in a bookshop there. I stayed at home for a couple of months and I kept in touch with the Lashkar in Pakistan.
After a couple of weeks, I was asked to go to Kathmandu. Here I was given to understand that an operation was being planned in Bengaluru. I was taken to Bengaluru in July 2004. Here we did a recee of several schools and colleges. However, this plan was changed later and we decided to carry out a strike on the Indian Institute of Science.
That attack was not a success and we were pulled up by the Lashkar commanders in Pakistan. We had to return to Pakistan immediately after the attack where we were told that the attack was not a success."
Following the IISc attack, Sabahuddin trained extensively in Nepal and Pakistan following which he helped in the attack on the CRPF camp in Uttar Pradesh.
Sabahuddin also says around this time they also did a recee in Mumbai. He made arrangements to transport Fahim Ansari to Mumbai. Fahim returned to Nepal with sketches of various targets in Mumbai.
Sabahuddin was arrested in 2008 following the UP attack and it was during his interrogation that he spoke about his life and his journey into jihad. During the interrogation he also discussed at length plans for an attack on Mumbai.
Despite being informed by the UP police, the Mumbai police did not act on the information, stating that Sabahuddin Ahmed was not wanted in any case in Mumbai and hence they did not seek his custody.