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FBI hails 26/11 probe, India sulks over Headley

By Lalit K Jha
March 19, 2010 10:00 IST
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A top United States intelligence official has said that the probe in the Mumbai terror siege is an 'excellent example' of cooperation between India and the United States, even as Indian authorities are smarting over the US administration's refusal to hand over Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley on charges related to his involvement in the 26/11 attack.

"It (investigation of the Mumbai terrorist attack) is, I would say, an excellent example of the cooperation between the two countries," said Sean Joyce of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Joyce recently visited India, along with FBI Director Mike Muller, and was present in the meetings with Home Minister P Chidambaram and other top officials.

"I traveled recently with Director Mueller to talk to minister Chidambaram and others in working on the Mumbai attack specifically, and again, working with them to successfully bring those folks to justice, whether that's in an Indian court or a US court," said the assistant director of the International Operations Division in FBI.

Headley, accused of plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks at the behest of the LeT and conspiring to target a Danish newspaper, on Thursday pleaded guilty of terror charges before a Chicago court.

Headley, 49, faces six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons in India and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and LeT; and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India,.

Headley, a Chicago resident who was arrested by the FBI's joint terrorism task force on October 3 last year, told US District Judge Harry Leinenweber that he wanted to change his plea to guilty, in an apparent bid to get a lighter sentence than the maximum death penalty. His plea agreement with federal prosecutors ruled out the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan and Denmark, provided that he cooperates with the government's terrorism investigations.

Though Joyce refused to answer questions related to the extradition of Headley or his co-conspirator Rana Tahawwur Hussein, he argued that success is bringing justice to the victims, wherever that may be.

"I emphasise that success is not just bringing someone back to the United States. If we can help you provide evidence in a court of law, if we can provide you, as we have in the Mumbai attacks, individuals that actually testify in an Indian court proceeding, that again is success for the FBI and I think success for everybody in the world," Joyce said.

The department of justice on Thursday said in light of Headley's past cooperation and expected future cooperation, the attorney general of the United States has authorised the United States attorney in Chicago not to seek the death penalty against Headley.

"When directed by the US attorneys office, Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information, and Headley further agrees that, when directed by the United States attorneys office, he will fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory," a department of justice statement said.

Referring to his recent visit to Mumbai, Joyce said, "The Mumbai attack was a discussion point that we discussed with the Intelligence Bureau, with minister Chidambaram and others. It is, I would say, an excellent example of the cooperation between the two countries."

He did concede that the issue of extradition was discussed when the FBI director and he visited India.

"So again, on Mumbai, I think that is an outstanding example of the Indian authorities working with the FBI authorities, and really helping to identify the individuals that were complicit in the Mumbai attacks, and dealing with some of the other countries that were also involved, and cooperating with them to bring those individuals to justice," he said.

Underlining that the investigation was not yet complete, he said, "We continue to work with you and the Pakistani authorities to bring the individuals to justice, with your countries".

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