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Updated: June 8, 2011 03:50 IST

FBI videotape shows Rana admitting to terror links

Praveen Swami
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Samraz Rana Akhtar, wife of 26/11 co-accused Tahawwur Rana, outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago on Monday.
Samraz Rana Akhtar, wife of 26/11 co-accused Tahawwur Rana, outside the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago on Monday.

He says he knew plotters, but was ignorant of their plans

Federal prosecutors have released a videotape of the interrogation of Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Husain Rana, who is being tried in a Chicago court for his alleged role in facilitating the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.

In the October 18, 2009 interrogation, Rana said that he had been in contact with a mid-level Pakistani intelligence officer known as ‘Major Iqbal,' who has been indicted for funding and coordinating the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. Rana also had high words of praise for Sajid Mir, the top Lashkar commander who guided the assault team.

However, Rana insisted that while he knew the key plotters, he had no knowledge of their plans. “I am not guilty,” he said.

The videotape was released even as the Illinois federal court where Rana is being tried began hearing concluding arguments. Prosecutors hope the videotaped testimony will undermine Rana's claims that he was duped by David Headley, unaware that the childhood friend he had invited to work for his business was in fact an undercover Lashkar operative.

In the videotape, Rana admits he praised Mir, after Headley told him he had heard audiotape of the Lashkar commander guiding the Mumbai attack. Rana laughed, and described Mir as “Khalid bin Waleed”— a legendary Islamic general. “When I am very, very happy,” Rana told the FBI, “I say someone is a Khalid bin Waleed.”

Rana also admitted to speaking with ‘Major Iqbal,' but insisted their conversations were limited to discussing business plans, and how he might roll back legal proceedings initiated after he deserted the Pakistan army.

But Rana, the videotape shows, was aware of Headley's relationship with Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri — a Pakistan-based jihad commander who financed a post-26/11 plot to attack the offices of the Jyallands Posten, a Copenhagen-based newspaper which incensed many Muslims by printing allegedly blasphemous cartoons. Headley was provided visiting cards of Rana's immigration business, which allowed him to visit the offices of the newspaper, posing as an advertiser.

Rana admitted he knew Headley harboured violent thoughts about the cartoonists at the newspaper — and prosecutors say he could not but have enquired about why Headley wanted to advertise in it.

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