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Why is Headley in news?

R Keerthana
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One of the key conspirators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was sentenced, last week, to 35 years by the U.S. court. David Headley, a Pakistani-American, who helped Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to plot the attack in 2008 that claimed 166 lives (including 6 Americans), confessed to the crimes and pleaded guilty.

Who is David Headley?

David Coleman Headley (52) was born Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and an American mother. He changed his name in 2006 to travel more easily to and from India. The western name and a U.S. passport helped him slip under the radar, despite making numerous trips to India between 2002 and 2005.

What was his role in 2008 Mumbai Attack?

During his visit to Lahore in 2000, Headley befriended a Lashkar’s spiritual leader. He became an active member of LeT and received extensive training. He performed spying operation in Mumbai, mapping targets for the 2008 attacks. His operations helped Pakistani gunmen to enter the city through the sea and carry out the attack in Taj and other Mumbai hotels.

In 2009, Headley traveled to Britain to plan an attack against a Danish newspaper, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He was arrested on his way to Pakistan at Chicago Airport along with Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a co-conspirator of Mumbai attack as well. Headley was found to have made another trip to India to conduct surveillance of theNational Defense Collegein Delhi, and of Chabad Houses (centre for disseminating TraditionalJudaism) in various cities in India.

Why was he shown leniency?

Headley had entered into a plea deal with the U.S. investigators to avoid death penalty or extradition to India (or Pakistan or Denmark). Extradition is t o give up to the legal jurisdiction of another government. He had agreed to cooperate with the U.S. to reveal information against LeT in exchange for leniency in punishment. Headley began sharing information that led to criminal charges against seven other people and testified ( give proof or turn witness ) against Rana, who last week was sentenced to 14 years. He is expected to reveal more, which U.S. sees as a way to combat terrorism.

Why is India unhappy with the verdict?

India feels that Headley should have been given life sentence or death penalty considering the intensity of the crime.

What are the suspicions surrounding his relationship with the U.S ?

Even during his militant training, Headley worked as an informant for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This has raised suspicion among Indian analysts about his relationship with the U.S. government. Some analysts suspect that David Headley was adouble agentfor theCentral Intelligence Agency(CIA) of the U.S. that had infiltrated LeT.

The news reports in 2010 claim that U.S. would have had advance knowledge about Headley’s activities and the attacks, as his American and Moroccan wives had contacted American authorities in 2005 and 2007, respectively, to complain about his terrorist activities and to warn about possible attack on Mumbai hotels.

How is his extradition to India being looked at?

The United States has rejected the Indian demand to extradite David Headley saying he will serve his jail term in America. External Affairs Minister Salman Kurshid said that Headley would have got a tougher sentence if the trial had taken place in India. India plans to continue to press for his extradition.


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