The probe into unravelling the suspected links of David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago since last month, with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks appears to be gathering momentum with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raiding several places in Mumbai on Sunday.
Well-placed sources in the Home Ministry said that NIA sleuths conducted raids at several places in South Mumbai and suburbs of the megacity, including Malad, Goregaon, Khar, Pali Hill and Lokhandwala. The sources also did not rule out the possibility of the NIA officials questioning Bollywood filmmaker and director Mahesh Bhatt's son Rahul to ascertain his alleged "acquaintance'' with Headley, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen.
According to the sources, NIA detectives carried out searches at the house of alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Faheem Ansari, who is in jail along with another suspect Sabahuddin Mohammed for allegedly conspiring and preparing maps which came in handy in mounting multiple terror attacks in Mumbai on November 26 last year. More than 170 people were killed in the terror strikes and hundreds were injured.
Detectives also went through records of the two luxury hotels in Mumbai — the Taj and the Trident — where Headley is believed to have stayed prior to the 26/11 terror attacks. Both the hotels were also attacked by the team of 10 Pakistani terrorists who had taken the sea route from Karachi to land in Mumbai. Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist, is facing trial in the 26/11 terror attack case.
Though Mahesh Bhatt has vehemently denied any links of his son with terrorists, Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said on Sunday that no one has been given a clean chit. "Investigations are still continuing,'' he told reporters. NIA sleuths, the sources pointed out, would try to cull out as many details about Headley as they can from questioning Rahul Bhatt, a fitness instructor in a Mumbai hospital. His three friends, believed to be from Bollywood, are also likely to come under the scanner of the NIA team.
Details about Headley's operations and his suspected links with the LeT are believed to have been discussed at length by FBI officials with the Indian team which returned recently from Washington. Headley, believed to have visited India nine times between 2006 and 2009, was planning to launch major terror strikes at several places in India at the behest of the LeT. His alleged accomplice Tahawwur Rana, a Canadian national of Pakistani origin, was also arrested on October 3 by the FBI for allegedly plotting terror strikes in India and Denmark. Both Headley and Rana have been named as accused in a FIR registered by the NIA on last Wednesday.