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Pakistani National Sentenced to Death for Mumbai Terror Attacks

In India, a Pakistani national convicted for his role in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai has been sentenced to death. He was the only gunman who was captured alive during the daring assaults that killed 166 people in India's financial hub.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab wiped his face and held his head in his hands as a special court in Mumbai pronounced the death penalty on four counts - murder, waging war against India, conspiracy and terrorism offenses.

Twenty-two-year-old Kasab is the only one who survived out of ten heavily armed gunmen who arrived by sea and mounted attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai in November 2008. Indian authorities say he was a member of the Pakistan-based Islamic militant group, the Laskhar-e-Taiba, which India believes masterminded the attacks.

Kasab and an accomplice killed and wounded scores at the city's main train station.

Pronouncing the sentence, the judge said Kasab's offenses were "of exceptional depravity", and he had lost right to humanitarian treatment. He said the death penalty was necessary to maintain the people's faith in the judicial system.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Himanshu Roy, who was present in the court, says the judge explained that the punishment is in proportion to the crime.

"While imposing the death sentence, he said there was a preponderance of overwhelming circumstances which made the death punishment inevitable, and that there were hardly any mitigating circumstances," said Roy.

The death penalty on Kasab can only be executed once it is confirmed by a high court. There could also be an appeal against it - a process that could take years as it winds its way slowly to the highest court.

In Mumbai - the city which was traumatized by the terror attacks - many people said they were satisfied by the sentence. Several family members of victims of the attacks appeared on domestic television saying they supported the death penalty for Kasab.

The prosecution, which had called Kasab a "killing machine" said the judgment will put balm on the wounds of the victims of the terror attacks. The defense had argued against capital punishment, saying Kasab was brainwashed into committing the offenses.

Indian courts rarely use the death penalty, which is reserved for what the Supreme Court has called the "rarest of rare cases," and is imposed by hanging. No execution has been carried out since 2004 and many appeals for clemency are pending. This includes one from the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991, and a Kashmiri separatist who attacked India's parliament in 2001.