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'Fahim Ansari conducted first recce of 26/11 targets'

By Vicky Nanjappa
December 08, 2009 02:05 IST
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Indian investigators have found answers to many of the questions in the 26/11 attacks case based on the recent briefing with US investigation teams and the new charges filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation against suspected Lashkar terrorist David Headley.

Sources from the Intelligence Bureau told that it was Fahim Ansari, the Mumbai-based man who is presently facing a trial in a special 26/11 court, who had first conducted the recce of the targets in the city, followed by Headley, who later conducted a detailed survey.

According to sources, the latest revelations have finally solved this important puzzle for the Indian investigators on who conducted the recce for the Mumbai attacks.

Ansari had first surveyed places in Mumbai and provided rough sketches of the targets to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

The Lashkar men studied the maps and passed on the information to Headley, who went to Mumbai to conduct a detailed survey of the targets.

According to sources, the FBI has told Indian investigators that Headley had made at least five visits to Mumbai between 2006 and 2008.

Working on a need-to-know basis, neither Headley nor Ansari were told about each other and both went about their jobs independently, said sources.

Ansari, who lived in Mumbai, conducted one recce, whereas Headley had surveyed the targets many times through the two years.

The FBI has also told its Indian counterparts that Headley had been in the know of the Mumbai attacks plot since 2006.

Headley was, according to sources, more interested in carrying attacks in Denmark, however he was asked to drop the plan and instead focus on Mumbai since it was a more important operation for the Lashkar.

The 49-year-old was first sent to Mumbai in 2006, when he acquainted himself with the city. Headley returned to Mumbai for a second visit the same year and conducted a recee of several targets. He came back to the city for the third time a year later for another recce.

Based on what the FBI has told the Indian agencies, Headley's most important visit was in April 2008, when he took a boat ride in the city and shot videos of the potential targets from the seafront.

Indian investigators say this particular video helped the Lashkar gunmen to a great extent as it guided them in landing in Mumbai through the sea route.

Sources say Headley had shot many videos of the city that run to several hours. He then left for Pakistan, where he met his handler Sajid Mir alias Zarar Shah and handed over the videos and maps.

These videos and maps were used at the camps to train the Lashkar gunmen, who were selected to carry out the 26/11 attacks plot.

Indian intelligence sources said they have recorded the statements of several people who were in contact with Headley during his India visit.

The evidence collected by the Indian investigators will now be corroborated with the information given by the FBI, and this will set the stage for the Indian team to question Headley.

An IB official, who had visited US in October to question Headley but had to return empty handed, said the case was much stronger this time, as they had collected ample information.

Indian agencies will grill Headley, who has assured of cooperation during the investigation, and will then frame appropriate charges against him.
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Vicky Nanjappa