NEW DELHI, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- India Saturday executed the main conspirator in the December 2001 attack on Parliament, Afzal Guru, in a top secret operation which bears resemblance with the hanging of Mumbai attacker Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab barely three months back.
Though the local media broke the news of Guru's execution at the high-profile Tihar jail in the national capital, Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde announced it some two hours later. " Afzal Guru was hanged at 8 a.m. All legal procedures were followed in the execution," he told the media.
The hanging of Guru, a fruit seller from Indian-controlled Kashmir, came just days after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his clemency plea. He was convicted of arranging weapons for five attackers and sentenced to death by a court in the Indian capital in 2002.
The capital punishment was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004. His hanging was earlier slated for October 20, 2006, but it was put off after Guru's wife filed a clemency plea before then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The President has the constitutional powers to commute death sentences to life in prison.
"This is only about the law taking its course," Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh said, adding that he was buried inside the prison and refuting claims that Guru's family members were not informed about the execution beforehand.
The country's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has for long questioned the delay in Guru's execution due to pending of his clemency plea before the President, however, applauded the Indian government, saying it was "delayed but is undoubtedly welcome".
"The people of this country had been waiting for this for a long time. This is a right step in the fight against terrorism," BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy told the media.
The Parliament, came under attack on December 13, 2001, when five armed militants stormed its premises, killing a gardener and at least eight policemen, before being shot dead by security forces.
India blamed Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, which, in turn, claimed it was backed by Islamabad which had denied any involvement.
Guru was among the two men given capital punishment for the attack. But the sentence of the other convict Shaukat Hussain was later reduced on appeal to 10 years in prison. Two other persons accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Guru had always denied plotting the attack.
Executions are rare in India.
Guru's was the third hanging since 1995, the first being that of a liftman in the eastern city of Kolkata in 2004 for raping and killing a school girl and the second was of Kasab in November last year in a jail in the western city of Pune for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which over 170 people died.
Experts say Kasab's and Guru's executions in a span of three months could well be part of a political strategy by the country's Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to score brownie points a year-and-a-half before the general elections.
They say the executions are attempts to showcase the government 's tough message to terrorists that it will be harsher when it comes to dealing with militants, at a time when it's grappling with allegations of corruption and its inability to control rising prices in the country.