al-Qaeda operative paid for recce, says Headley

After 26/11 attacks, Headley returned to India in 2009 as directed by a senior Al-Qaeda operative

February 13, 2016 12:26 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:00 am IST - Mumbai:

The LeT commander Sajid Mir purchased 15-20 yellow and red bands at the the Siddhivinayak temple as part of the plan. File photo

The LeT commander Sajid Mir purchased 15-20 yellow and red bands at the the Siddhivinayak temple as part of the plan. File photo

After naming Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in his deposition before a Mumbai court through video conferencing, American-Pakistani terrorist David Coleman Headley on Friday named al-Qaeda.

After successfully conducting the 26/11 attacks in 2008, Headley came back to India in March 2009 as directed by senior al-Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri.

He said, “I met Kashmiri in February 2009 and he told me to visit India again to carry out terrorist activities” and that he (Kashmiri) had paid for his entire trip. Kashmiri asked him to go to India again and mentioned a few places to conduct reconnaissance, especially at Pushkar, Goa, and the Chabad House in Pune.

Headley said he did not disclose his working with al-Qaeda to the LeT because the terror outfit would not allow him to go back to India as it felt insecure after the attacks because of the Indian media, and it apprehended that he would be caught.

Headley said Kashmiri, who was in the 313 Brigade of al-Qaeda, had told him to first visit the National Defence College (NDC) in Delhi as it was the primary location.

He said that LeT was also planning to attack the college.

LeT wanted to attack NDC

In his deposition before a Mumbai court on Friday, David Coleman Headley said the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was also planning to attack the National Defence College and in 2007, LeT commander Sajid Mir had told him to visit Delhi to have a look at the college, but later, the outfit was not interested in the attack.

Headley said al-Qaeda was interested in attacking the college because it was a high value target as it had senior military officers.

Major Pasha also told him that if the attack was successful, “they would be able to kill more military officers than brigadiers and major generals killed in wars with India in the past”.

‘I discouraged attack on Siddhivinayak temple, Naval Air Station’

“I thought the Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] would be interested in attacking the Shiv Sena Bhavan or even assassinating its head [Bal Thackeray]”, said American-Pakistani terrorist David Coleman Headley before a special court on Friday.

Continuing his deposition via video conferencing, Headley told judge G.A. Sanap that LeT commander Sajid Mir had told him to maintain good relations with the chief of public relations of the Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray for getting easy access to the building. He visited the building two-three times and made videos of it from the inside and outside and handed them over to either Mir or Major Iqbal, he couldn’t recollect.

Headley said: “I discouraged the LeT not to attack the Siddhivinayak temple and the Naval Air Station because they were both heavily guarded. He said he purchased 15-20 yellow and red bands at the temple for the terrorists who would attack on November 26, 2008, and handed over the same to LeT commander Sajid Mir, who thought it was a good idea as it would be a sign that the attackers were Indians.”

The 26/11 mastermind and chief operational commander of LeT, Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, thought that the Gateway of India and the Naval Air Station would be good and safe landing points for the attackers but Headley opined otherwise.

He said the attackers would have to navigate around sensitive naval installations and they could be intercepted, and that all of them would have to be deployed in one place. Headley also surveyed Badhwar Park at Cuffe Parade as the safest landing site as it would give the practical advantage of small hutments, slums, and cottages to get to the main road.

After all the landing sites were decided, Headley handed over the GPS readings of the locations to LeT handler Abu Khaffa.

Lakhvi told him that the attacks need to be successful as it would be a revenge for “all the bomb blasts India did in Pakistan.”

Headley told the court that after videos of all sites were given to Major Iqbal, serving in the Pakistani Army, he [Iqbal] was “upset and unhappy” about the fact that the Mumbai Airport was not selected as one of the locations for attack in November 2008.

Major Iqbal had also told Headley to survey the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and recruit some employees for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence to get classified information on India. He also took videos of the centre and shared them with Major Iqbal and Mir.

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