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Updated: November 18, 2009 20:58 IST

NIA probes Headley’s Bollywood links

Vinay Kumar
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The Shyam Niwas building, where terror suspect David Coleman Headley stayed, in Mumbai.
PTI The Shyam Niwas building, where terror suspect David Coleman Headley stayed, in Mumbai.

As investigators try to reconstruct the sequence of events that took place during the stay of U.S. terror plotter David Coleman Headley in India last year, the focus of the ongoing probe appears to have shifted on Wednesday to ascertaining and verifying the reported links of Headley with some Bollywood personalities.

Apart from phone and hotel records, sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), camping in Mumbai since last Saturday, are verifying the contacts which Headley was said to have established during his stay in the mega city. Sources in the government said the effort was to trace the persons with whom he had met last year, days before 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

The sources said that Rahul Bhatt, son of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, was a witness than a suspect and three others who had come in contact with Headley were also being asked about their meetings with the U.S. national. ``Some encounters of Headley may have been by pure chance or in a casual manner, while some others could have been planned. We have to collect and verify all such bits of information. It is a painstaking investigation and nothing can be said at this stage with certainty,’’ the sources said.

Though it is becoming clear that Headley and his Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Rana were part of a larger conspiracy and plot of Lashkar-e-Toiba terror outfit to target India, effort was on to find out if the duo had indeed played a key role in help plan and launch 26/11 terror attacks by 10 Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai which left about 170 people dead. Ajmal Kasab is the lone surviving terrorist who is facing trial in the case in Mumbai. NIA investigators are also likely to question Kasab to ascertain if he knew the duo. Both Headley and Rana were arrested last month by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago on allegations of plotting terror attacks in Denmark and India.

After Headley-Rana episode, India has tightened visa approval norms for Pakistan-born U.S. citizens by making it mandatory for such applications to be cleared by New Delhi. The Union Home Ministry is also said to be contemplating a similar action on American nationals born in China, Afghanistan and Iran.

The Home Ministry recently issued instructions, stating that all applications seeking Indian visa from Pakistani-born US nationals would be processed and cleared by New Delhi instead of its missions in the U.S.

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