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Revealed: FBI knew Headley's motives before 26/11

Last updated on: October 16, 2010 11:03 IST

Revealed: FBI knew Headley's motives before 26/11

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Three years prior to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was warned of the strikes and David Headley's links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba by the wife of the Pakistani-American terrorist, says an investigative report.

"Three years before Pakistani terrorists struck Mumbai in 2008, federal agents in New York City investigated a tip that an American businessman was training in Pakistan with the group that later executed the attack," according to the report on the 26/11 attacks published by ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom engaged in investigative journalism in the public interest.

"The previously undisclosed allegations against David Coleman Headley, who became a key figure in the plot that killed 166 people, came from his wife after a domestic dispute that resulted in his arrest in 2005," the report said.

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Image: Video grabs of Headley from CNN

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In three interviews with federal agents, Headley's wife said he was an active militant in Lashkar-e-Taiba, had trained extensively in its Pakistani camps and had shopped for night vision goggles and other equipment, the report investigated by Sebastian Rotella of ProPublica said citing officials and sources close to the case.

A version of the investigative report released yesterday by ProPublica -- which is supported entirely by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its website and to leading news organisations -- was also published by the online edition of The Washington Post.

There was no immediate response from the FBI on the authenticity of the report.


Image: A burning Taj during the 26/11 attacks
Photographs: Reuters
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Revealed: FBI knew Headley's motives before 26/11

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"The handling of the Headley case calls into question the progress of American law enforcement and intelligence agencies in improving their coordination and ability to 'connect the dots' and deter attacks. It also raises questions about a complicated relationship between American authorities and a confessed terrorist," ProPublica said.

Headley's wife, whom ProPublica is not identifying to protect her safety, also told agents that Headley had bragged of working as a paid US informant while he trained with the terrorists in Pakistan, according to a person close to the case, the report said.

Headley is currently in a Chicago prison after he was arrested by the FBI agents last year on charges of involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks. He confessed to his role in the strikes under a plea bargain.
 



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"Federal officials say the FBI 'looked into' the tip, but they declined to say what, if any, action was taken. Headley was jailed briefly in New York on charges of domestic assault but was not prosecuted. He wasn't arrested until 11 months after the Mumbai attack, when British intelligence alerted US authorities that he was in contact with Al Qaeda operatives in Europe," the report said.

ProPublica said that in the four years between his wife's warning and Headley's capture, the LeT sent Headley on reconnaissance missions around the world.

During five trips to Mumbai, he scouted targets for the attack -- using his US passport and cover as a businessman to circulate freely in areas frequented by Westerners.



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He met in Pakistan with terrorist handlers, including a Pakistani army major accused of helping direct and fund his missions, the report said, citing court documents and anti-terrorism officials.

According to ProPublica investigations, it is not clear from the available information whether a different response to the tip about Headley might have averted the Mumbai attacks.

"It is known that US anti-terrorism officials warned Indian counterparts several times in 2008 about a possible attack on Mumbai, according to US and Indian officials. The warnings included details, such as a threat to the iconic Taj Mahal hotel, which became a target, officials say," the report said.



Image: File photo of Kasab at the Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus
Photographs: Kind Courtesy: Sebastian D'Souza/Mumbai Mirror
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