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Headley's videos made 26/11 gunmen's task easy

By Vicky Nanjappa
Last updated on: December 08, 2009 14:00 IST
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The precision with which the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks were carried out shocked the world. The 10 attackers seemed to know their way around the targets. It now appears that the gunmen had nearly 18 hours of video footage available of the targets in Mumbai.

Indian investigators probing the arrested American national and Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley's link to the 26/11 attack say that these high quality videos were shot by him.

The detailing of the videos that were provided by him to the LeT bosses were not just random shots of the targets. Apart from providing details of the entry and exit points of the targets, Headley has also gone into the details in those locations.

Indian investigators told that the videos were so perfect that it made the job for the Lashkar men extremely easy. Headley had visited all the targets attacked on November 26, 2008; and had conducted a detailed survey -- from inside and utside.

Take for instance the shots of a spiral staircase inside the Taj Mahal hotel, which was used by the terrorists during the attack. During his briefing to the Lashkar bosses, he had mentioned about such details so that the terrorists could utilise them during the attack.

In fact it was this spiral staircase inside the Taj hotel that helped the gunmen dodge security forces for over 50 hours. The then chief of the National Security Guards, J K Dutt, too had confirmed that it was this staircase in the Taj which helped the terrorists move up and down between the first and the second floor and attack their targets. This detail was not provided even to the NSG in the map, and it was only later did they realise how the gunmen were moving around so easily.

Headley had carried out similar reccees of the rest of the places. Intelligence Bureau sleuths, however, point out that the videos of the Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus were very detailed, since this was supposed to be the mother target for the gunmen. During their briefing, the attackers were instructed to unleash terror first at the CST, which would create panic and distraction, and would keep the security forces engaged for some time. This gave the rest of the gunmen ample time to take position in the rest of the targets, where they held hostages for several days together.

According to the investigators, Headley had prepared videos of four of the targets and handed them out separately to his bosses in Pakistan. In fact, he had gone down to Pakistan several times and delivered the videos to his bosses. He met his handler Sajid Mir at the Murdike camp in Pakistan on all five occasions and handed over the video each time he was there. The same videos were then shown to the gunmen in batches and each member of the fidayeen (suicide bomber) squad viewed these videos for nearly two months on a daily basis in order to get the act perfect. The Lashkar, however, wanted to ensure that the attack at the CST was perfect -- since this would have determined as to how the rest of the attack went about.

Headley, during his reccee, used a spy camera to shoot the videos. Although the videos that were shot were in-depth and extremely detailed, they were shaky since he had used a spy camera. He made several trips round the city in boats posing to be a tourist before shooting these videos. He had also checked into these hotels and posed as a Jew to gain entry into the Nariman (Chabad) House. The lone surviving 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, during his interrogation, has also said that he had been shown videos of the targets for several days. He had also said that the videos were in-depth but shaky.

The IB says that Headley had been handpicked for the job as he had an eye for detailing. He was recruited in the United States by a set of Lashkar operatives in that country. Very soon, he managed to rise in the ranks since he had shown commitment and dedication.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru