Fresh evidence has emerged that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate played a key role in funding and organising the Lashkar-e-Taiba's November 26, 2008, attack on Mumbai.

Prosecutors in Chicago have filed e-mail correspondence between the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley and a serving Pakistani intelligence officer he knew as Major Iqbal — documents which will add to the growing global concern over the ISI's links with terrorist groups.

In one January 23, 2008, e-mail, for example, Headley forwarded his handler “some preliminary information” on commercially available surveillance equipment on January 23, 2008.

The e-mail shows Headley was thinking of acquiring a pen with a built-in concealed camera, as well as counter-surveillance equipment designed to detect equipment planted by police.

Headley's handler, another e-mail records, asked him to call, but “please not [on] my mobile number.” Instead, the handler provided him with an alternative United States cellphone number, in what Headley has told the trial court was an attempt to evade intelligence surveillance.

Closely involved

In his testimony on Monday, Headley said the ISI was intimately involved in the operation — at one point even making available the services of a naval diver, and considering his deployment to help the Lashkar's assault team land in Mumbai. Major Iqbal, Headley said, had provided $25,000 for his mission.

Further e-mail filed in the Chicago court, prosecutors say, show the ISI routed the funds through city businessman Tahawwur Rana. Rana has pleaded not guilty, while Headley has agreed to a reduced sentence in return for cooperating with the investigation.

In a May 22, 2007, e-mail, Headley provided Rana with accounts for expenses of $14,448. He scrupulously recorded that he had spent $425 on a personal visit to Dubai, and another $380 on “World Cup expenses” — a possible reference to bets placed on matches played in the West Indies in March and April that year.

Later that year, though, Headley was voicing frustration over the progress of the operation. “We must take rapid steps to improve business,” Headley wrote in a September 16, 2007, e-mail, asking Rana to “please direct me as to the planned line of action.”

Headley's handwritten diary makes clear he was also in touch with several top Lashkar operatives. It includes a cellphone number for Sajid Mir, the Lashkar's overall commander for transnational operations, as well as Abdul Rehman Makki, the brother-in-law of the Lashkar-e-Taiba's supreme leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

Now believed to be the Lashkar's second-in-command, Makki was teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, and helped Saeed and Osama bin Laden's member Abdullah Azzam co-found the organisation.

The Hindu found that all of the Pakistani numbers listed in the diary were now defunct, suggesting that the individuals named in the diary all had reason to fear surveillance.

Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied any ISI role in the Mumbai attacks, and the suspects earlier indicted in an investigation by the country's Federal Investigation Agency did not name Headley or other key co-conspirators.

More In: International | News