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How Headley managed to get an Indian visa

December 26, 2009 13:51 IST

David Coleman Headley, the American Lashkar-e-Tayiba suspect in the Mumbai terror attack case, did not disclose his Pakistani-origin while seeking an Indian visa, raising no alarm bells at the Indian Consulate in Chicago.

Headley, who was earlier called Dawood Gilani, gave 'Headley' as his last name at birth in his visa application and wrote his father's name as 'William Headley', according to reliable information. The Pakistani-American, charged with criminal conspiracy in the attack that killed 166 people in Mumbai, had changed his name to David Headley apparently to conceal his Pakistani identity, the Federal Bureau of Investigation chargesheet against him says.

In his visa application, he did not disclose his Pakistani origin and that cannot be traced from his passport as parents' names do not appear in the US passport and his place of birth is also Washington. The information provided by Headley matched that on his passport and the documents submitted by him, and since the US passport has no such details as parents' names or previous nationality, it could not have alerted the Consulate.

Besides, Headley's and his accomplice Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana's names do not appear in the government of India blacklist or one maintained by the embassy. as there were no adverse intelligence inputs against them. Headley, 48, and Rana, 49, were arrested in October by the FBI for plotting attacks in India and for involvement in the Mumbai terror attack in which six Americans also died.

Reports that Headley and Rana's visa papers were missing had created ripples, prompting the Ministry of External Affairs to seek a factual report from the diplomatic mission in Chicago.

However, the original visa application form, along with the attached documents, were later 'retrieved' from the Chicago consulate's record room. Headley and Rana both traveled to India on multi-entry visas issued by the Indian mission.

Headley made several trips to India to record videos and take photographs of terrorist targets in Mumbai at the behest of the LeT. He submitted his business sponsor letter from the Immigrant Law Center owned by Raymond Sanders, a US national. However, Rana and his wife Samraz Rana Akhtar disclosed their Pakistani-origin in their visa applications.

However, as per circular of 2005 issued by Ministry of Home Affairs, no prior reference to MHA was required for Canadian Nationals of Pakistani origin.

Lalit K Jha In Washington
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