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What Indian agencies can learn from new FBI charge-sheet against Headley

By B Raman
January 15, 2010 14:39 IST
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On January 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation filed before Judge Harry D Leinenweber of the Northern District Court of Eastern Illinois Division a charge-sheet (indictment) relating to the role of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strikes and in a planned terrorist attack on the office of a Danish newspaper in Denmark, which had published cartoons of the Holy Prophet in 2005.

The charge-sheet projects the Mumbai attacks as a joint operation of the LeT and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami involving, among others, four members of the LeT and Major Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha, who acted as an intermediary between Headley and Rana on the one side and the Waziristan-based Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of the 313 Brigade of HUJI.

The charge-sheet does not identify the four members of the LeT based in Pakistan on whose behalf Headley was acting. They are merely referred to as Lashkar Member A, B, C and D. None of them is cited as a co-accused (co-defendant), indicating thereby that the FBI does not propose asking for their arrest and extradition by Pakistan to face trial by the Chicago court.

This could be an indicator that the four unidentified LeT members are among the seven presently in custody in Pakistan and being prosecuted before an anti-terrorism court of Islamabad for their role in the Mumbai conspiracy. Since they are already facing trial in Pakistan, the FBI does not feel the need for prosecuting them on similar charges in Chicago.

Indian investigators should be able to identify these four members of the LeT from the following tell-tale evidence in the charge-sheet:

'Lashkar Member A' was a resident of Pakistan 'associated with the LeT who supervised others associated with the LET and served as a 'handler' for Headley and others.

'Lashkar Member B was a resident of Pakistan associated with the LeT who trained others in combat techniques for use in terrorist attacks.'

'Lashkar Member C was a resident of Pakistan and one of the LET commanders.'

'Lashkar Member D was a resident of Pakistan and one of Lashkar's commanders.

During the course of the attacks in Mumbai, the attackers were in telephonic contact with Lashkar Members A, B and C, all of whom were then located in Pakistan. More specifically, during the course of the attacks, the attackers were advised to, among other actions, kill hostages and throw grenades. Lashkar Member A also sought to arrange the release of a hostage in exchange for the release of a captured attacker (Ajmal Kasab).'

The charge-sheet also refers to a 'Person A', a resident of Pakistan, 'who participated in planning and funding attacks carried out by the LET.' It does not describe him as a member of the LeT. By going through the charge-sheet, one could infer that Person A is most probably Major (retd) Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha.

It was he who allegedly gave $25,000 to Headley in July 2006 for his expenses in India, another sum of $2,000 in Indian rupees in September 2007 and a third amount of $1,500 in Indian rupees in June 2008. In March 2008, Lashkar Member A gave him $1,000 in Indian rupees.

While no Pakistani resident has been cited as a co-accused in connection with the Mumbai attacks, Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Abdur Rehman have been cited as co-accused in connection with the planned terrorist attack on the Danish newspaper office. The FBI has thus reserved to itself the option of demanding that Pakistan should arrest and extradite them to the US for trial.

According to the charge-sheet, the Denmark attack was also envisaged as a joint LeT-HUJI (313 Brigade) operation, but the LeT withdrew from it in March 2009 following the action taken against some of its members by the Pakistani authorities in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

Thereafter, it was planned as a purely HUJI attack. Earlier in February 2009, when Headley met Ilyas Kashmiri in Waziristan along with Maj Abdur Rehman, Ilyas Kashmiri informed him that he would arrange the manpower for the Denmark attack and that the participation of the LeT was not necessary.

Headley made six visits to India in September 2006, February 2007, September 2007, April 2008, July 2008 and March 2009. The first five visits were to collect operational details and video recordings for the Mumbai strike.

The March 2009 visit was for the collection of details for a future attack. During his visit to Pakistan in September 2007, Lashkar Member A showed him a mock-up of the Taj Mahal hotel.

For two of his visits to India in April 2008 and July 2008, Lashkar Members A and B gave him a Global Positioning System instrument and asked him to record in it the location of the possible landing sites for the boat and other targets. On both the occasions, Headley would appear to have brought the GPS instrument into India and taken it back to Pakistan without being detected by Indian customs.

Rana has been cited as a co-accused in respect of two charges: 'Conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India' and the planned attack in Denmark. In respect of the planned Denmark attack, Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Abdur Rehman are also co-accused.

In respect of all other charges relating to the Mumbai attack, Headley is the only accused. No one else has been cited as co-accused.

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B Raman