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Headley plotted strikes in India and Denmark

Last updated on: December 08, 2009 12:24 IST
On December 7, 2009, America's Federal Bureau of Investigation filed before a Chicago court a criminal information report charging David Coleman Headley, previously known as Daood Gilani, a US national of Pakistani origin normally resident in Chicago, on 12 counts.

Six of these counts related to participating in a conspiracy to bomb public places in India, murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. The remaining six counts related to participating in a conspiracy to aid and abet the murder of US citizens in India. This refers to the massacre of six US nationals by the LeT in Mumbai during the terrorist strike of 26/11 last year.

It is learnt that it has been called a criminal information report and not an indictment as yet because the charges relating to India are largely based on voluntary admissions made by him during his interrogation after he was arrested by the FBI on October 3, 2009, on a charge of conspiring with Pakistan-based elements to carry out a terrorist attack in Copenhagen against a Danish journal which had published caricatures of Prophet Mohammed in 2005.

The FBI had originally filed a criminal affidavit giving details of evidence collected on the basis of technical intelligence which justified his arrest and interrogation. Subsequently, they submitted in a sealed cover to the court information obtained during his initial interrogation to justify his continued custody. This sealed cover has now been  opened and its contents incorporated in the CIR.

The FBI has described the investigation against Headley as still active. A formal indictment would follow after the investigations into his disclosures in India and Pakistan. India's National Investigation Agency has already started an investigation into his activities in India during his periodic visits, but no arrests appear to have been made as yet. Rahul Bhatt, son of director Mahesh Bhatt, who was the only Indian whose name had figured in the e-mails exchanged by Headley with his Pakistani handlers, could be a material witness during the investigation and prosecution in the US as well as India. The CIR against Headley, however, does not refer to Rahul.

The FBI also filed a separate CIR on two counts in the same court on December 7, against Major (retd) Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a Pakistani citizen based in Pakistan. The two counts relate to conspiring to attack the Danish newspaper and its employees. The CIR against the retired Pakistani major does not refer to 26/11.

In the affidavit filed earlier by the FBI against Headley, there were references to two of his handlers in Pakistan -- a person referred to as Individual A and an LeT office-bearer referred to as LeT member A. Headley was allegedly in touch with Individual A in connection with the Copenhagen conspiracy and with LeT member A in connection with the Indian and Copenhagen conspiracies. Individual A appeared in the earlier affidavit as an associate of Ilyas Kashmiri of the 313 Brigade. He had introduced Headley to Ilyas Kashmiri and was acting as a cut-out between the two.

The earlier affidavits had not identified Individual A and LeT member A. The CIR filed on December 7 has identified Individual A as Major (retd) Abdur Rehman. While the report does not say anything about the major's arrest, media reports have said he has been arrested by the Pakistani authorities at the FBI's request. For reasons which are not clear, no CIR has been filed against Ilyas, who seemed to have initiated the conspiracy relating to Copenhagen. The FBI has not yet named Headley's handler called LeT member A.

A careful reading of the earlier affidavits, the criminal information reports filed on December 7 and the media reports in the US and Canada, would indicate that Headley played a role in two conspiracies unrelated to each other. The first conspiracy was initiated by the LeT in 2006 for the terrorist strike in Mumbai. In this connection, he visited India five times, spending long periods to recce the targets ultimately attacked by the LeT, including the two hotels, the railway terminus and the Jewish centre, shot videos and then carried them to Pakistan.

The details of his participation in the Mumbai 26/11 related conspiracy are:

2005: The LeT, of which he had become a member, asked him to "travel to India to perform surveillance."

February 2006: He changed his name from "Daood Gilani" in order to "present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani."

June 2006: Obtained permission from friend and businessman, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, to open an ostensible consultancy franchise in India. Rana is a Canadian national of Pakistani origin living in Chicago, who was running an immigration consultancy service.

September 2006: Visited India for several weeks, then Pakistan.

February 2007: Visited India for several weeks, then Pakistan.

September 2007: Visited India for several weeks, then Pakistan.

April 2008: Visited India for several weeks, making a surveillance video as he took a boat ride through the Mumbai harbour.

July 2008: Visited India for several weeks, then Pakistan.

The FBI's CIR does not refer to any Indian visit by Headley in November 2008. There is also no reference to his role in connection with the July 2006 explosions on some suburban trains in Mumbai.

The second conspiracy related to the planned terrorist attack in Copenhagen for which Headley had visited Copenhagen earlier this year on behalf of Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Abdur Rehman. It is known that Ilyas heads the so-called 313 Brigade based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Major Abdur Rehman also probably belonged to the 313 Brigade.

The LeT and the 313 Brigade were aware of each other's conspiracies relating to India and Denmark respectively and of Headley's role in both the conspiracies, but their focus was different. The LeT was more interested in a spectacular operation in India than in Denmark. The 313 Brigade was more interested in a spectacular operation in Denmark than in India. It was the FBI's successful monitoring of the plans for an attack in Copenhagen which led to Headley's arrest and the subsequent discovery of his role in India.

The FBI has not filed any CIR against Rana in connection with 26/11.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com

B Raman in Chennai