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India executes last gunman from Mumbai attacks

From Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
November 21, 2012 -- Updated 1148 GMT (1948 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani, is hanged at a jail southeast of Mumbai
  • His petition for clemency was rejected by the Indian president
  • He was convicted for his role in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 160 people
  • It is the first use of capital punishment in India in eight years

New Delhi (CNN) -- India on Wednesday executed Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the last surviving gunman from the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, a government official said.

Kasab, a Pakistani, was hanged at Yerwada Jail in Pune, a city southeast of Mumbai, said K.S. Dhatwalia, a spokesman for the Indian home ministry. It was the first use of capital punishment in India in eight years.

Read more: Mumbai attack survivor: 'It's like a dead man living'

The execution took place after Kasab's last attempt to avoid the death penalty, a clemency petition, was rejected earlier this month by President Pranab Mukherjee.

Kasab was one of 10 heavily armed men who in November 2008 attacked landmarks around Mumbai, including high-end hotels, the city's historic Victoria Terminus train station and the Jewish cultural center Chabad House.

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He was photographed holding an assault weapon during the three days of violence. Indian forces killed the nine other suspects.

Read more: The Mumbai attacks: Getting the story amid chaos

A Mumbai court sentenced Kasab to death in 2010 after he was convicted of murder, conspiracy and waging war on India.

He pursued the appeals process through the Indian justice system, but the Supreme Court in August upheld his death sentence.

Kasab was buried in the "surrounding area" of the jail following his execution on Wednesday, Dhatwalia said.

Pakistani authorities didn't respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Read more: Mumbai attack suspect's lawyer shot dead

The conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, the country's main opposition party, expressed support for Kasab's execution.

"It's a strong message that India does not and will not tolerate terrorism," said Prakash Javadekar, a party spokesman.

The use of capital punishment is not common in India. The last state execution was in 2004, when a man was hanged for the rape and murder of a teenage girl.

India blamed Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistani-based terror group allied with al Qaeda, for the Mumbai siege.

Indian authorities said Kasab was trained by the organization, which was banned in Pakistan in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament. The group has denied responsibility.

Read more: Islamists protest NATO route opening in Pakistan

The Mumbai attacks destabilized peace talks between the Indian and Pakistani governments, which remain bitterly opposed over issues such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

Since then, the two nuclear-armed nations have resumed the high-level meetings and relations have improved.

In April, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi during a brief private trip. It was the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years.

Read more: Clinton urges Pakistan to do more in fighting terrorists

Indian sporting authorities also this year announced the resumption of bilateral cricket tournaments with Pakistan. The sport has often been used as a platform to ease relations.

But tensions remain close to the surface. In August, New Delhi alleged that "elements" in Pakistan were using social-networking sites to stir religious unrest in India amid ethnic clashes between Muslim migrants and native tribal groups in the northeastern state of Assam.

CNN's Shaan Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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