American terror suspect David Headley was scheduled to visit India again in November last, apparently to finalise the next target for Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and set up a base in Delhi.
Sources privy to the investigation said that 49-year-old Headley had told his friends in India that he was coming to the country in November for business.
Headley’s messages to his friends, who have recorded their statements before the National Investigation Agency (NIA), stopped in the last week of September. This was days before he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at O’Hare airport in Chicago on October 3, just before he could board a plane for Philadelphia en route to Pakistan, sources said.
The sleuths believe since the LeT had postponed its strike on Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten due to international pressure following the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, Headley was coming to India to finalise the next target.
His friends told the investigators that he was constantly in touch with them from the United States. Before his arrest, Headley had said thathe was coming to India and they would have a get-together.
According to documents shared by the FBI, Headley had been asked by his handler, a Pakistani Army official, that he should wind up his office — First World Office — in Mumbai and “open up a new business centre in Delhi to be used as a cover for future activities.”
The travel details of Headley are being examined by various agencies, sources said.
Investigators believe Headley’s last visit to India in March 2009 may have been to finalise synchronised terror strikes on Jewish houses located in five cities.
Piecing together Headley’s itinerary during his last visit, the investigators were of the opinion that the U.S. terror suspect was scouting only Jewish targets, including the El Al Airlines office here. Headley had carried out reconnaissance of the Israeli airlines’ office in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, before moving to New Delhi, where he chose to stay in a small hotel in Paharganj.
The security agencies carried out reconnaissance of the area and found a Chabad House, barely 300 metres from the hotel, De Holiday Inn.
From Delhi, Headley travelled to Pushkar on the outskirts of Ajmer, Rajasthan, where he insisted on a room opposite a Jewish prayer centre, claiming that he was a Jew and wanted “holy sight.”
After staying there for three days, he moved to Goa and stayed at a guest house in the Anjuna village, along the coast of the Arabian Sea, before proceeding towards Pune, where he scouted the area around the Koregaon Park.
Born to a Pakistani father, Headley, whose birth name was Daood Gilani, has been charged by the FBI with conspiring in the audacious Mumbai attack which left over 160 people dead.
The NIA, which was formed in the aftermath of 26/11, was probing the role of Headley and his Pakistani-Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Rana.