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26/11 attacks: Headley, Rana, Kashmiri indicted in US

By Aziz Haniffa
January 15, 2010 08:53 IST
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A federal grand jury on Thursday returned a superseding indictment adding Chicago native Tahawwur Rana, Pakistan-based terrorist leader Ilyas Kasmiri and a retired major in the Pakistani military Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, to charges filed last month against Pakistani American and Laskhar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley.

The indictment alleged that the men participated in conspiracies involving a planned terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper and the horrific 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The indictment contains identical charges that were filed against Headley on December 7, 2009, while adding Rana as a defendant in three of the counts charging material support of the terrorism plots in Denmark and India, as well as in support of Lashkar, designated by the US state department as a foreign terrorist organisation and believed to be behind the attack on 26/11.

Kashmiri, alleged to be in regular contact with the Al Qaeda leadership and Rehman, were charged in two conspiracy counts relating to the Denmark terrorism plot.

While both Rana and Rehman were charged separately in previous court filings, Thursday's indictment charged Kashmiri for the first time, although he was identified by name in the charges filed previously against Rana, Rehman and Headley.

Headley, 49, and Rana, also 49, have remained in custody in Chicago since being arrested in Chicago on October 3, 2009 and October 18, 2009 respectively.

Headley, a US citizen and a Chicago resident, faces six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons in India and Denmark, providing material support to foreign terrorist plots, and providing material support to Lashkar, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India.

He has pleaded guilty to the charges, but previously authorised the US justice department to disclose that he is cooperating in the ongoing investigation.

In 2002 and 2003, Headley allegedly attended Lashkar terror camps in Pakistan and conspired with Lashkar members and others, including Rana, Kashmiri, and Rehman, in planning and executing the attacks in Denmark and India. He allegedly conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the 26/11 attacks that killed more than 170 people, including six Americans.

Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian and a Chicago resident, was indicted on Thursday on three counts of providing material support to terrorism or a terrorist organisation; one count of providing material support in preparation for and in carrying out the Mumbai attacks; one count of providing material support to the Denmark terrorism plot; and one count of providing material support to Lashkar.

Kashmiri and Rehman, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark, and one count of providing material support to the Danish terrorism plot. Neither of them are in US custody and both are said to be in Pakistan.

Law enforcement officials told that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation were pressing Pakistani law enforcement officials to arrest them and once arrested, and explore the possibility of extraditing them to stand trial in the United States.

According to the charges, an unnamed man identified only as Lashkar Member A, who served as the handler for Headley and another person associated with the Lashkar, advised Headley in late 2005 that he would travel to India to conduct surveillance of potential targets for Lashkar.

On February 15, 2006, Headley, who was living in Philadelphia at the time, changed his name from Daood Gilani, allegedly to present himself in India as an American, who was neither Muslim nor a Pakistani.

In the spring of 2006, Lashkar Member A and a Lashkar associate had discussed with Headley the idea that he could open an immigration office in Mumbai as a cover for his surveillance activities.

In June 2006, Headley allegedly traveled to Chicago, advised Rana of his assignment to scout potential targets in India, and obtained approval from Rana, who owned a company named First World Immigration Services in Chicago and elsewhere, to open a First World office in Mumbai as cover for his activities.

Rana allegedly directed an individual in his office to prepare documents supporting Headley's cover story of opening a First World office in Mumbai, and advised Headley how to obtain a visa for travel to India.

In his visa application, Headley misrepresented his birth name, his father's true name and the purpose of his travel, according to the FBI affidavit.

In July 2006, unnamed person A in Pakistan provided Headley with $25,000 to establish and operate First World's Mumbai office and to pay for living expenses while Headley carried out his assignment for Lashkar.

Headley would make five extended trips to Mumbai from September 2006 through July 2008, each time taking photographs and making videotapes of various potential targets, including those attacked on 26/11, and all the time using his association with First World as cover for his travels.

Before each trip, according to the FBI affidavit, Headley was instructed by Lashkar members and associates regarding specific locations where he was to conduct surveillance. After each trip, Headley traveled to Pakistan to meet with his handlers and report on the results of his surveillance, and provide Lashkar with the surveillance photos and videos.

The indictment spoke of the meetings between Headley, Kashmiri and Rehman to conspire to launch terrorist attacks against the Danish newspaper and its editor and cartoonist for publishing 12 cartoons, some of which depicted Prophet Mohammed, that set of angry protests throughout the Muslim world, including in Pakistan.

It states Rehman took Headley to meet with Kashmiri in February 2009 in the Waziristan region in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

According to the charges, in March 2009, Headley's Lashkar handler advised Headley that Lashkar had decided to put the newspaper attack on hold because of pressure in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.

In May 2009, Headley and Rehman met again with Kashmiri in Waziristan. Kashmiri allegedly directed Headley to meet with his European contacts who could provide the latter with money, weapons and manpower for the newspaper attack.

In September 2009, Headley and Rana allegedly spoke about reports that Kashmiri had been killed in a drone attack and the implications of his possible death for the plan to attack the Danish newspaper. Later that month, Rehman called Headley from Pakistan to report that Kashmiri was not killed and was anxious to move forward with attacking the newspaper.

On October 3, 2009, the entire conspiracy began to unravel when Headley  was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare international airport when he was planning to travel to Pakistan and meet with and deliver approximately 13 surveillance videos to Rehman and Kashmiri, the indictment charged.

The charges filed on Thursday identify Kashmiri as an influential leader of the Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami, an organisation that trained terrorists and executed attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and other areas.

It said that Kashmiri based his operations from FATA, which has served as a haven for terrorist organisation, including the Al Qaeda.

The indictment alleged that Kashmiri was in regular contact with Al Qaeda leader, Mustafa Abu al Yazid, also knon as Sheikh Said al Masri.

The counts against Headley charging conspiracy to bomb public places in India, each carry a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment or death.

All the other counts against Headley carry a maximum of life imprisonment, except providing material support to the Denmark terror plot against all four defendants, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

The other two material support counts against Rana, and the conspiracy to murder and maim people in Denmark against Kashmiri and Rehman, also carry a maximum of life in prison.

Despite requests from India, US intelligence has made clear that it has no intention to provide its Indian counterparts with information about Headley's past, possibly because he not only worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency as a mole in Pakistan, but perhaps could have also worked for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The US has also politely but firmly informed India that Headley would never be extradited to India but would stand trial and be sentenced only in the US.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC