‘Did Headley indeed tell NIA Ishrat had links with LeT?’

Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Friday asked Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to clarify the controversy over Ishrat Jahan’s alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba. This follows the CBI charge sheet which says Ishrat Jahan was killed in a fake encounter in a joint operation carried out by the Gujarat police and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) nine years ago.

After meeting Mr. Shinde in the North Block, Mr. Singh said he told the Minister his Ministry should clarify as to whether David Headley, who had recceed the 26/11 targets for Mumbai terror attacks, had told investigators that Ishrat had links with the LeT, a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation. The Congress leaders also pointed to contradictory statements by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the IB and the CBI in this connection.

“The NIA is saying something, the IB is saying [another thing] and the CBI something else. There should be clarity on what these government agencies are saying. Media sources [regarding news reports on Ishrat’s alleged terror links] should also be investigated… They are spreading panic in the nation,” Mr. Singh said.

Later, Mr. Shinde said he would verify reports which suggested that Headley had told the NIA that Ishrat had links with LeT. “Digvijay Singh has met [with me]. Let me look into the matter raised by him. Let me speak to agencies concerned,” the Minister later told journalists.

In 2010, the NIA had questioned Headley, who is lodged in a United States jail, as part of its investigation in the Mumbai terror attack case. According to media reports, NIA investigators initially said LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi told him Headleyin 2005 of a failed terror operation in India in which Ishrat and her accomplices had died. This information was reportedly in the NIA’s interrogation report of Headley given to the IB. However, this reference of Ishrat was later found missing from the NIA report. Sources said Headley’s comments were not legally admissible as they were based on second-hand information.

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