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26/11 accused using Headley's name to confuse proceedings?

December 18, 2009 16:42 IST
There appears to be a pattern in the manner that the accused in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case are making statements before the court.

First, Laskar-e-Tayiba operative and terror accused Sabahuddin claimed that arrested American national and terror suspect David Coleman Headley had interrogated him along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation team that visited India post 26/11; and on Friday it was the turn of lone surviving gunman and prime accused, Ajmal Kasab, to issue a similar statement.

A week back Sabahuddin had made a similar statement in the special court in Mumbai, claiming that one of the officers who had come down to interrogate him along with the FBI was Headley.

He had told the court he had seen a sketch of Headley in the newspaper, which he gets in prison, and it was then that it occurred to him that he was one of the persons who interrogated him in a Mumbai prison.

Based on the submission made before the court, he was directed to file an application through his lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi, before the magistrate to seek orders in this regard.

On Friday, before the special court, Kasab too towed the same line. He too claimed that he was interrogated by 'FBI agent' Headley.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told that it is highly unlikely that the FBI would have brought down Headley to interrogate the Mumbai accused.

The FBI would have been taking too much of a risk in doing so. "We have been verifying this information and nothing concrete has emerged as yet on this," they said.

As far as both the accused are concerned, it appears that it is only a tactic to delay the proceedings.

If the accused continue to pursue the matter before the court, they will have to move an application before the magistrate and seek to direct the investigating agency to probe into this matter.

IB says there is only a sketch of Headley available and the accused may have mistaken him for someone else.

Sources, however, say that with the allegation of Headley being termed as a 'FBI agent' and now these statements, the US would be under pressure to hand over Headley to India so that the confusion is put to rest.

Headley was an informer or approver for the FBI who had been sent to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region to pass on information regarding the drug trade in that region. However, he cozied up to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and became their operative.

The FBI was not in the loop about his operations for a long time. It was only in early 2008 that they started to keep a tab on him, and based on this, they had also warned India about an attack on Mumbai in September 2008, the same month, the FBI lost track of him.

IB sources say that the point that Headley was an approver is a confirmed fact, but there is some discrepancy regarding his date of arrest, as it believes that he was picked up a couple of months after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru