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Headley revelations may embarrass Mumbai police

November 20, 2009 19:28 IST
Sheela Bhatt reveals why the Union home minister is upset with the Mumbai police.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram is displeased with the Mumbai police's investigation skills, according to a senior source in the Union home ministry.

The ministry believes the newly-formed National Investigation Agency will have to re-investigate the 26/11 case if the David Headley-Tahawwur Rana probe produces unexpected links with the Mumbai terror attacks. This will be a serious matter and hit the Mumbai police's credibility.

Pakistan-born American citizen David Coleman Headley and Canadian citizen Tahawwur Hussain Rana were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago last month. The FBI believed the duo were Lashkar-e-Tayiba (the Pakistan-based outfit blamed for masterminding the 26/11 attacks) operatives tasked with spreading terror in India.

Sources insist that so far only leads are being followed and it will take a long time to actually link Headley with the 26/11 attacks. In his interaction with the media, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has said that no video has been found of terror targets in Mumbai.

He also said the home ministry has not said anything 'officially' so far on Headley's linkages to the 26/11 attacks.

Ministry officials are annoyed about the way the news about the Headley-Rana affair is unravelling in the media.

The reported leakage of details from the FBI findings has caused immense embarrassment within the Mumbai police and the Union home ministry. Because of it, there are too many pulls and pressures in local investigations into the Headley affair.

New information in the media reveals that Headley toured many parts of India without any problems.

Last week, Mumbai police officers, who were part of the team that conducted the 26/11 investigation, defended themselves in an interaction with the local media. A senior officer claimed that the investigation conducted under Joint Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria's leadership was under the Intelligence Bureau's consultation and supervision.

The Centre was kept informed of all developments. The new facts that may emerge in the NIA's investigation cannot be construed as a weakness in the Mumbai police's investigations, he said.

Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandan told rediff.com that "Any investigation into the Headley affair will be taken into account, but it will have no impact on our investigation or the court trial."

The Mumbai police said the trial is being conducted on the basis of the evidence and facts presented before the court. The court will take its own decision on its basis.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the attacks, the Maharashtra government wanted to take credit for the speedy trial against the three accused in the case that is going on in a special court at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail.

So far, the lawyers for the three accused -- Ajmal Kasab, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed -- have not mentioned before Special Judge M L Tahilyani anything about the scores of media reports on Headley and Rana's so-called connection with the 26/11 attacks and have not asked for a 're-trial' in view of the revelations.

Last fortnight, Ansari had, in a hand-written note to the Bombay high court, asked for a re-trial.

He said he 'may not get justice from Special Judge M L Tahilyani due to certain instances, incidences, orders passed and conduct and attitude of the special judge.'

Media reports about Headley's possible links with the 26/11 attacks is causing discomfort within the Mumbai police because if the NIA confirms the links, the police will have to file an additional charge-sheet in court.

In a brief chat, top sources in the Union home ministry told rediff.com that "So far the home ministry has not claimed that Headley and Rana are linked to the Mumbai attacks. Also, we have never said that videos or maps have been found connecting Headley to the Mumbai plot."

Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken told rediff.com that "There is a need to wait for the NIA investigation to get over in the Headley case. The NIA took time to recruit staff and it has started working for a few months only. Give them some time."

Sheela Bhatt in Mumbai