Headley was quizzed under instructions: Nikam

Investigating agency wanted to find out details about the botched-up operation of LeT in India.

February 13, 2016 12:38 am | Updated November 17, 2021 05:00 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam coming out of Sessions court in Mumbai. Photo: Vivek Bendre

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam coming out of Sessions court in Mumbai. Photo: Vivek Bendre

A day after American-Pakistani terrorist David Coleman Headley said Mumbra woman Ishrat Jahan was a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said he had “instructions from the investigating agency to find out about the botched-up operation of the LeT in India.” Mr. Nikam had offered three names to Headley in a bid to help him recall the names of the woman killed in a shootout.

Asked about the reason for the multiple choices given to Headley to identify Ishrat Jahan, Mr. Nikam told The Hindu on the phone: “I could not have given 50 names. I was having instructions of the investigating agency to find out about the botched-up operation of the LeT in India. It was a spontaneous decision [to offer three names] and I can refresh the memory of the witness.”

Asked about the investigating agency, Mr.Nikam said it was the Mumbai Crime Branch. The options given by Mr.Nikam were Noorjahan Begum, Ishrat Jahan and Mumtaz. On hearing the names, Headley, who is deposing through a video link, said it was Ishrat Jahan.

The botched-up operation is not directly connected to the case against Zabiuudin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, an alleged LeT operative who was present in the Karachi control room from where the ten terrorists were being directed during the attack. It is in this case that Headley is deposing and the investigating agency concerned is the Mumbai Crime Branch.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is also probing the larger conspiracy in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, said it was bound by the sovereign clause not to reveal whether Headley had mentioned Ishrat Jahan’s name when a team went to the U.S. to interrogate him in 2010.

A report, prepared by the NIA then and available in the public domain, however did not make any reference to Ishrat Jahan. The report quotes Headley about his meeting with Muzzammil Butt, a LeT handler based in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), who later told him that there was a women’s wing in the LeT, and it was headed by the mother of one Abu Aiman, also an operative of the LeT.

In 2013, Gujarat police officer N.K. Amin, accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, submitted a set of documents in the Supreme Court, which included a “true copy” of a letter sent by Daniel C Clegg, the legal attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, to the Intelligence Bureau.

The June 25, 2010 letter read: “Zaki [ur Rehman] told Headley about a female suicide bomber named Ishrat Jahan who was recruited by Muzammil. Jahan was killed by the Indian police during the attack. Zaki mentioned Muzammil’s plans to attack the Akshardham temple, the Somnath and Siddhi temples. The attacks were revenge for the 1988 attack on the mosque in U.P.”

According to Headley, Muzzammil was an important LeT operative, and he met him first in 2002. Headley said he was involved in a series of attacks on Indian security forces when he was in Kashmir. Headley said Muzzammi was born in 1976 and is over 6ft 4 inches tall. He sports a long beard and is well built. Muzzammil is very close to Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and is his most trustworthy companion who contradicts Zaki.

The Akshardham temple attack was conducted and planned by him.

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