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NIA team leaves to grill 26/11 suspect Headley

May 30, 2010 16:33 IST

The questioning of American Lashker-e-Taiba terrorist David Headley is going to revolve around the places he had visited after the Mumbai terror attacks and the people he had remained in touch with during his stay in India. A three-member team of National Investigation Agency, which along with a public prosecutor is expected to leave for the United States in the wee hours on Monday, has prepared questions about his stay in the country especially during March 2009, his last visit to India.

The travel details of Headley, the globe-trotting prized asset of the LeT, are being sought mainly as investigators believe that this visit may have been to finalise the synchronised terror strikes on Jewish houses located in five cities, sources said. They said the government has kept 'backup staff' in readiness if the team, that was visiting the US, needed any assistance. This will be for the first time that 49-year-old Headley, who was born to a Pakistani father and whose earlier name was Daood Gilani, will be facing direct questions from Indian investigators.Headley's statement would be recorded by the Special Law Officer of India after which the NIA, which has registered a case against Headley and Pakistani-Canadian national Tahawwur Rana for waging war against the country and Unlawful Activities Prevention (Act), may file a charge sheet against him.

Besides the Indian team, those expected to be present during the questioning would be Headley's lawyer and an officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Piecing together the travel trail of Headley during his visit to India in March last year, the investigators of a central security agency were of the opinion that the US terror suspect was scouting only Jewish targets, including the office of Israeli airlines El Al in Mumbai. Headley had carried out reconnaissance of the office of El AI located at Cuffe Parade in Mumbai in March before moving to the national capital, where he chose to stay in a small hotel in Paharganj area. The security agencies found a Chabad House barely 300 metres from the hotel.From Delhi, Headley travelled to Pushkar in the outskirts of Ajmer in Rajasthan, where he insisted on a room opposite a Jewish prayer centre, claiming he was a Jew and wanted 'holy sight'.

The lawyer of David Headley, accused of helping Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists to execute the Mumbai attacks, has said the process of granting access to Indian authorities to the Pakistani-American is "moving forward" and there is no change in the intention to cooperate with them.

"The process (of providing Indian investigators access to Headley) is moving forward. There is no change in our intention to cooperate with Indian authorities" and provide access, Headley's lawyer John Theis told PTI in Chicago. Theis' remarks came as Indian investigators left for US to interrogate 59-year-old Headley. Theis, however, said he would not comment on any specific details of such an access and "would not be able to share specific information at this point" as to when and for how long the team from India can question Headley.

Randall Samborn, spokesperson for the US Attorney's office here, declined to comment when and how the access would take place. A four-member team of Indian investigators will interrogate Headley, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the Mumbai attacks and in turn has avoided the death penalty and extradition to India. Sources in India said three officers of National Investigation Agency and a law officer will travel to Chicago, where Headley is held in the federal lock-up Metropolitan Correctional Centre and are expected to interrogate Headley next week.

The team is being sent following a communication from the US Justice Department that all concerned officials and the lawyer of Headley will be available during the visit of the Indian team to facilitate their access to Headley.

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