Indian police interrogators are preparing to administer a "truth serum" on the sole Islamic militant captured during last week's terror attacks on Mumbai to settle once and for all the question of where he is from.
The mystery of the man dubbed "the baby-faced gunman" has weighed heavily on India's relations with Pakistan as the nuclear-armed neighbours dispute each other's accounts of his origin.
Police interrogators in Mumbai told The Times that they have "verified" that Azam Amir Kasab, who was captured after a shoot-out in a Mumbai railway station on Wednesday night, is from Faridkot, a small village in Pakistan's impoverished south Punjab region. They say that the nine dead gunmen are also Pakistani.
Disputing that account, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan told CNN last night: "We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani. I very much doubt it … that he is a Pakistani."
He added: "The gunmen plus the planners, whoever they are, [are] stateless actors who have been holding hostage the whole world."
Proof that the militants were Pakistani would rapidly escalate the pressure on Mr Zardari's government to take action or risk a backlash from allies including the United States.
Police interrogators in Mumbai told The Times that they are poised to settle the matter of Kasab's nationality through the use of "narcoanalysis" – a controversial technique, banned in most democracies, where the subject is injected with a truth serum.
The method was widely used by Western intelligence agencies during the Cold War, before it emerged that the drugs used – typically the barbiturate sodium pentothal – may induce hallucinations, delusions and psychotic manifestations
Mumbai police said that their evidence of a Pakistan link includes hand grenades manufactured in the city of Rawalpindi, in Pakistan, and satellite phone calls traced back to the country.
Deven Bharti, a deputy police commissioner in Mumbai and one of the interrogators, told The Times that Kasab had shown no remorse for his part in a terror attack that had killed nearly 200 people.
"He is a 24-year-old boy with the eyes of a killer," Mr Bharti said.
"Nobody should doubt: he is a highly-trained murderer. He has told us he came to Mumbai from Pakistan to cause maximum casualties."
The photographs of the gunman firing indiscriminately at the city's largest train station, wearing combat trousers, trainers, a black T-shirt and a blue haversack stuffed with ammunition, have become the defining image of the assault on Mumbai, the deadliest terror strike unleashed in India in 15 years.
The police officer added that the interrogation had been carried out in Punjabi and that Kasab also spoke a little, rough Hindi. "He can barely speak a sentence in English, only names of weapons and such," Mr Bharti said.
"He resisted at first, but soon he began to talk. We have our techniques, but we don't disclose our tactics."
Mr Bharti said Kasab is being held in an undisclosed location: "All I can say is that it isn't five-star luxury."
The portrait revealed by police questioning is that of a village boy from a poor family who failed to complete primary school but went on to undertake months of military training at four or five militant camps in Pakistan, the last of which was near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
He said that Kasab, together with the nine other gunmen killed during last week's attacks, had been chosen from a group of 24 that had gone through the same training regime.
The young men were prepared with violent footage from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. "All the traditional indoctrination methods you would associate with al-Qaeda or Lashka [Lashka-e-Taiba] have been used on these men," Mr Bharti said.
The police say that Kasab has given his home village as Faridkot, in the Okara district of Punjab. "We have verified, cross-checked this,"
Mr Bharti said. "We know his father owned a food stall there".
Mr Bhatri said that there was "no doubt" that Kasab will be subjected to "narcoanalysis", a technique which is common in serious crime investigations in India.
The drug, which will be administered through a drip, will lull Kasab into a trance-like state. Usually, a forensic psychologist then questions the prisoner.
Such methods are banned in the UK and the US, though some security officials suggest they should be adopted in anti-terrorist cases in the West.
|Liveleak on Facebook|