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Did Rana issue ID cards to 26/11 terrorists?

By Vicky Nanjappa
November 16, 2009 16:55 IST
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Arrested Lashkar terrorist Tahawwur Hussain Rana may have been the one who had arranged for the fake student identification cards carried by Ajmal Kasab and nine other terrorists, who were involved in the Mumbai attacks in 2008, said intelligence sources.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested Lashkar terrorists Rana and his accomplice David Headley, both Canadian citizens, in the US last month for plotting terrorist strikes in Denmark and India.

While the Intelligence Bureau has already confirmed the involvement of terrorist David Headley, an IB team is now in Mumbai probing Rana's involvement in the attacks.

According to IB sources, Rana had been in Mumbai exactly a week before the 26/11 attacks to oversee the plan and preparations underway for the strikes, while Headley had been in the city twice before the attacks and had even stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel, which was attacked by the LeT terrorists.

The IB team is probing to find if Headley had conducted a recce of the Jewish centre Nariman House too.

The student ID cards that were found on Kasab and the other terrorists' bodies had belonged to a college in Bengaluru.

The terrorists had posed as students and the ID cards, which had mentioned fake addresses in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kerala, were designed to mislead the interrogators after the attacks.

According to IB sources, Rana may have arranged for the cards during his visit to Kochi in Kerala in November 2008.

Sources further pointed out that Rana might have had the cards with him for some time before he personally handed over them to local operatives in Mumbai a week before the attacks who in turn may have passed it on to the LeT terrorists for the attacks.

Posed as visa agents

According to IB sources, Headley and Rana had been instructed by the LeT and Al Qaeda chiefs on their operations and the two had divided their roles in India.

While Headley is a US national, Rana is a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin.

"They used their nationalities to their advantage and roamed around freely in the country," IB sources said.

The duo had even placed advertisements in newspapers claiming to be running a job recruitment business. They had asked youngsters to apply for jobs abroad through the advertisement.

The IB said the advertisements were merely a cover-up to their visit to India and also to justify their stay in the country.

Usually terrorists who are into recruiting new jihadis do not go about advertising openly, and hence this must have been just a cover-up to the real purpose, IB sources pointed out.

The Kerala police has already confirmed that the chief of Al Qaeda's 313 brigade Ilyas Kashmiri had asked Rana, who played second fiddle to Headley in the entire operation, to focus on activating sleeper cells in South India.

While Rana was involved in recruiting jihadis in Kerala, Headley adopted a similar modus operandi in Mumbai, said IB sources.

Posing as a visa agent, he had set up an office in Tardeo, Mumbai, and had claimed to acquaintances that he had come down to recruit electricians and plumbers, who could work abroad.

IB sources said both Rana and Headley had been specifically told during their training session in Pakistan to remain undercover during their mission in India.

Sameer, an important link

Investigating agencies have said that they would do everything it took to lay their hands on the Kerala-based man identified as Sameer, who helped Rana and Headley while they were in the state.

Sameer, according to the IB, is an operative of India-based terror outfit Indian Mujahideen and had been in touch with Rana all through his visit to India. He had also helped Rana in identify the potential recruits for the jihadi cause, sources say.

The IB also feels that Sameer would be an interesting link in the case who could help in nailing other local operatives who helped in the Mumbai attacks.
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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru