Azam and eight others in the team made a reconnaissance trip to Mumbai several months before the attacks, pretending to be Malaysian students. They rented an apartment at Colaba market, near one of their targets, the Nariman House. The chief planner of the attacks also visited Mumbai a month before to take photographs and film strategic locations, including the hotel layouts. Returning to Pakistan, the chief plotter trained the group, telling them to 'kill till the last breath'.
Surprisingly, the men did not expect themselves to be suicide terrorists. Azam said they had originally planned to sail back on Thursday - the recruiters had even charted out a return route, stored on a GPS device. On the evening of Nov 21, Azam's group set off from an isolated creek in Karachi in a boat. The next day, a large Pakistani vessel with four Pakistanis and crew picked them up, whereupon the group was issued arms and ammunition.
Each man in the assault team was handed six to seven magazines of 50 bullets each, eight hand grenades, one AK-47 assault rifle, an automatic loading revolver, credit cards and a supply of dried fruit. They were, as some media put it, in for the long haul.A day later, the team came across an Indian-owned trawler, Kuber, which they boarded. They killed four of the fishermen onboard, dumped their bodies into the sea, and forced its skipper Amarjit Singh to sail for India.
The next day, they beheaded the skipper, and one of the gunmen, a trained sailor, took the wheel and headed for the shores of Gujarat, India. Near Gujarat, the terrorists raised a white flag as two officers of the coast guard approached. While the officers questioned them, one of the terrorists grappled with one of them, slit his throat and threw his body into the boat. The group then ordered the other officer to help them get to Mumbai.
On Nov 26, the team reached the Mumbai coast. Four nautical miles out, they were met by three inflatable speedboats. They killed the other coast guard officer, transferred into the speedboats and proceeded to Colaba jetty as dusk settled. The Kuber was found later with the body of the 30-year-old captain onboard. At Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade - just three blocks away from Nariman House - the 10 men got off, stripped off the orange windbreakers they had been wearing and made sure to take out their large, heavy backpacks.
It was there that they were spotted by fisherman Prasan Dhanur, who was preparing his boat, and harbour official Kashinath Patil, 72, who was on duty nearby. "Where are you going?" Patil asked them. "What's in your bags?"The men replied: "We don't want any attention. Don't bother us." Thinking little of it, Dhanur and Patil, who said they did not see the guns hidden in the backpacks, did not call the police, and watched the 10 young men walk away.
Then the carnage started. On hitting the ground, the 10 men broke up. Four men headed for the Taj Mahal Hotel, two for The Oberoi Trident, two for Nariman House and two - Azam and Ismail - for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus by taxi. At the railway station, Azam and his colleague opened fire, targeting Caucasian tourists while trying to spare Muslims. The two gunmen also destroyed the CCTV control room, throwing grenades into it.
It was here that Azam was photographed, dressed in light-grey combat trousers and sneakers, a rucksack on his back, toting his AK-47. According to one security expert, the way he carried the assault rifle revealed months of training. The two men left the main hall of the railway station littered with bodies and pools of blood, then moved on to Metro Cinema and then to the Girgaum Chowpatty area in a stolen Skoda. It was there that their plans started to unravel.
At the Girgaum Chowpatty area, Azam and Ismail were intercepted by anti-terror troops from the Gamdevi police station, and they ended up trading shots. Azam managed to shoot dead assistant police inspector Tukaram Umbale, while one of them also gunned down anti-terror squad chief Hemant Karkare. Ismail, however, was eventually killed, while Azam himself was shot in the hand. Pretending to be dead, he fell, and the two men were taken to Nair Hospital.
But police soon spotted him breathing and quickly evacuated the hospital's casualty ward, and brought in the anti-terror squad to interrogate him. At first, Azam remained tight-lipped, but the sight of Ismail's mutilated body broke his resolve. Pleading with medical staff to save his life, he said: "I do not want to die. Please put me on saline." The bullet in his hand was removed, and after his condition had stabilised, Azam was moved to another location on Thursday for more interrogation.
Reports, however, say that the grilling at the hospital had been so intense that at one point, he pleaded with the police and medical staff to kill him. He said: "Now, I don't want to live." - The Straits Times