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Headley was drawing plans for attack in Goa

By Vicky Nanjappa
December 29, 2009 13:01 IST
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The case pertaining to Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley seems to be getting murkier with each passing day. The latest on Headley is his Goa connection where he stayed for a couple of weeks and was closely associated with an American couple.

Preliminary investigations by the National Investigating Agency have revealed that Headley and his Moroccon girlfriend had kept in touch with the couple in Goa regularly. They met up quite often and there is nothing to indicate that the couple were aware of his terror plans in India.

Headley visited Goa in 2008 during the last leg of the reccee that he had conducted in Mumbai. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told that Headley was definitely not on a holiday in Goa, but was exploring the possibility of carrying out a terror strike in the tourist destination.

For the Lashkar, Goa was a backup option to the Mumbai attack. The idea from the very beginning was to carry out a lethal strike in which they could claim the lives of foreigners in particular.

The NIA says it is possible that Headley was using the American couple in Goa as a cover. However, investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the couple could have been in the know of what Headley was up to.

Headley, during his first visit to Goa along with his girlfriend, had visited a shack and a massage parlour that were being run illegally by the American couple. Due to the common nationality it was easy for Headley to get close to the couple. Investigations would show that he had asked them about various places in Goa. This gives the impression that Headley was laying the groundwork for an attack on Goa.

The names of the American couple are being kept a secret for the time being. The information that the NIA has managed to collect is that the couple had been working in Goa since nine years on a tourist visa. They had kept their identity a secret since they were living illegally.

The statements of the couple suggest that they had no knowledge of Headley's plans. They have not been very forthcoming on their meetings with Headley, but have admitted to having met his girlfriend once in Goa. However, investigations have revealed that Headley had met with the couple, both with his girlfriend and also separately.

The NIA says that they have not yet given a clean chit to the American couple and would continue to probe further to ascertain whether they were in the know of Headley's terror mission.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the Lashkar is desperate to target Goa since it believes that such an attack would give them the most attention. They have made several attempts in the past and the last time they got close to attacking Goa was before the arrest of Hyderabad-based Lashkar operative Riazzuddin Nasir.

The IB says that there is no other reason for Headley to visit Goa apart from conducting a reccee, since he would not have taken such a risk for no reason, especially when he was in India on such an important mission.

The NIA says that it would continue its probe against the American couple in Goa and has also requested that the couple be not deported. The Goa Police, however, claim that they do not have any information on this couple. The Goa superintendent of police's office, when contacted, said they have not yet been given any information regarding this angle to the Headley case.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru