Mumbai attackers made two earlier attempts: Headley

David Headley joined LeT and took his first “course” with them in 2002 at Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. File photo  

In an important turn in the 2008 Mumbai attacks trial, Lashkar operative David Headley named Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed as the head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. During his deposition on Monday before a special court here via videoconferencing from the U.S., he identified Pakistani Army officers associated with the ISI.

Lashkar handlers Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi had also been named by Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani gunman who was executed for his role in 26/11, in his confession statement in 2008. However, he retracted his confession in court.

Notably, Headley named Major Ali and Major Iqbal of the ISI and Lashkar commander Sajid Mir as his contacts in Pakistan.

He also said the 10 people involved in the 26/11 attacks had made two previous attempts on Mumbai. The first, in September 2008, failed as the boat, which started from outside Karachi, ran into some rocks and sank. The weapons and explosives were lost in the sea.

The second attempt took place a month later. It was Mir who informed Headley of the two attempts.

Headley, who was convicted in the U.S. for his role in the Mumbai attacks, gave his statement before special judge G.A. Sanap. Testifying as a prosecution witness from an undisclosed location in the U.S., he confined himself to the information he divulged following his plea bargain agreement with the American government in 2010. Terming his deposition “live evidence,” special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said it was a “statement of oath” of a person directly involved in the criminal conspiracy.

'Hafiz speech motivated me'

Lashkar operative David Headley, who deposed before a special court here on Monday through a video link, said he had joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 “for a course” in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan, the outfit’s headquarters.

“I heard a speech by Lashkar head and was motivated. Hafiz Saeed ‘saab’ is the head of Lashkar,” Headley said in his deposition in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack trial.

He underwent Daura-e-Am (preliminary training) and Daura-e-Khas (advanced training in weapons and explosives). Another camp called Daura-e-Ribbat (intelligence course) was held in Mansehra, 40 miles from Abbottabad, where Saeed and Lakhvi were present.

These locations, along with Muridke, are Lashkar strangleholds.

Headley described Lashkar as “a militant organisation in Pakistan whose goal is to fight the Indian Army and assist the people of Kashmir.” Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi would give religious speeches and speak of ‘jihad,’ defined as “fight against enemies of Islam.” They, Headley said, treated India as their enemy.

Headley said he visited Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with a friend and retired Major Abdur Rehman Pasha to meet a drug peddler Zeb Shah to seek his help in smuggling weapons to India.

He was arrested in Landi Kotal, a town next to the Afghan border, on suspicion of being a foreigner in a restricted area.

Headley was carrying literature on India at the time. Major Ali from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) interrogated him and was instrumental in securing his freedom. Headley carried a Pakistani identity card which made things easier.

When Headley told Major Ali that he intended to visit India, he introduced him to Major Iqbal, also of the ISI, “because he thought I could be used to gather intelligence,” Headley testified.

Changed identity

Headley identified Lashkar commander Sajid Mir, also known as ‘Wasi,’ as his Lashkar “colleague.” Mir was his main contact in the outfit. It was on Mir’s instructions that Headley changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006. He then applied for a U.S. passport under the new name.

The changed identity was to be used as a cover to enter India. Headley also admitted to forging his Indian visa application to protect his cover. His former schoolmate Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a former Army doctor in Pakistan convicted in the U.S. for providing material support to the Lashkar, helped Headley obtain a multiple-entry business visa through Raymond Sanders, who ran an immigrant law centre in Chicago.

Headley recognised the names of several 26/11wanted accused from among those put to him by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam. Another alleged Lashkar handler Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal is also facing trial in the case. He too appeared in court through a video link from the Arthur Road jail.

Here's all you need to know about Headley's handler Sajid Mir:

Sajid Mir

Lashkar-e-Taiba commander

"Sajid Mir was a high-ranking officer in the Pakistani Army and apparently also was in the ISI. "

Who is Sajid Mir?: Born in 1976, according to documents filed to obtain his Indian visa, Mir grew up in a middle-class ethnic Punjabi home.

Mir's father, according to Indian intelligence officials, earned enough working in Saudi Arabia to build a comfortable family home near Lahore airport, set up a small textile business, and put his sons through college.

He married the daughter of a retired Pakistan army chaplain; the couple are thought to have two sons.

Role in LeT: Mir was made responsible for training the growing number of western jihadists knocking on the Lashkar's doors.

Fluent in English, Urdu and Arabic, he was known to the foreign jihadists as “Uncle Bill”—a reference to Mir's affable manner.

Mir and Headley: Intense pressure by the United States led the Lashkar to shut down its camps to foreigners. Headley had arrived at Mir's camp just after the foreigners were evicted under ISI pressure — and was used to target India alone.

In an intercepted September 17, 2009 phone conversation with a former Pakistani military officer and military trainer called Abdur Rehman Hashim, Headley railed against Mir who, he asserted, had "rotten guts." "I am just telling you," he lectured Hashim "that the companies in your competition have started handling themselves in a far better way."

David Headley

Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba operative

Who is Headley? He was born Daood Gilani. His parents — the Philadelphia socialite Serill Headley and Pakistani poet and diplomat Syed Salim Gilani — divorced soon after they moved to Islamabad in 1960. Mrs. Headley returned to Philadelphia. Headley was admitted to a boarding school, where he first met Rana, but then moved to the United States in 1977. He rebelled against his mother's heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships by expressing a loathing for all non-Muslims.

Marital life Apart from Shazia Gilani, records show that he was married to Faiza Outhalla, a Lahore-based medical student. Headley divorced her to evade pressure from his family and then married her again after she filed a complaint with police in Lahore that led to his incarceration for several days.He also had another bigamous marriage with a New York-based make-up artist, Portia Gilani, ich ended in divorce in 2005.

His other life Headley married Shazia Gilani, daughter of a retired Pakistan soldier, in 1999. Ms. Gilani moved to the United States in 2008, along with their four children — Haider, Osama, Sumya and Hafsa.

Psychological problems Evidence also emerged that Headley was diagnosed in 1992 with multiple personality disorder — a condition which includes the possession of multiple mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs. His personal life could provide an explanation for why he sought psychological counselling..

26/11 Mumbai attacks Viewing the terror strikes unfold in Mumbai on television, David Headley’s first wife Shazia used code words like “I am watching cartoons” to convey to him that he had “graduated”, a term she used for success of the 26/11 strikes.“I’ve been watching these cartoons (attacks) all day and I am proud of you,” Ms. Shazia wrote in an email to 50-year-old Mumbai accused during the strikes.

David Headley arrest: Chronology of events

  • October 18, 2009: Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, a resident of Chicago and an accomplice of Headley, arrested by the FBI.
  • October 27, 2009: FBI files affidavit in a Chicago court alleging that Pakistan—based terror group Lashkar—e—Taiba was planning to use Headley to carry out a major terror attack in India and Danish newspaper ‘Jyllands—Posten’
  • November 30, 2009: Tahawwur Rana categorically denies any involvement in the Mumbai attacks. The detention hearing of Headley scheduled for December 4 at a Chicago court indefinitely deferred.
  • December 7, 2009: Headley charged in a Chicago court with criminal conspiracy in Mumbai terror attacks and having links with a retired Pakistani army Major who liaised between him and terror groups including LeT and HuJI.
  • December 8, 2009: US President Barack Obama says indictment of Headley, is an “important day” in his effort to protect the people from terrorists.
  • December 9, 2009: Headley pleads not guilty before a Chicago court where he was produced. Next hearing postponed till January 12.
  • December 14, 2009: Headley turns into FBI informant to avoid death penalty. FBI says the Somnath temple in Gujarat, Bollywood stars and Shiv Sena leaders in Mumbai were also the targets of LeT, which was planning to carry out strikes with the help of Headley and Rana.
  • December 29, 2009: FBI classifies arrest of Headley as its second biggest case for the year 2009.
  • January 11, 2010: The status hearing of Headley postponed till Feb 23.
  • January 15, 2010: Ilyas Kashmiri, the dreaded Pakistani terrorist, belonging to the Harakat—ul Jihad Islami, indicted in a U.S. court for the first time in connection with the plot to target the Danish newspaper.
  • January 26, 2010: Tahawwur Rana pleads not guilty to the charges of helping arrange the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and making plans for an attack on the Danish newspaper.
  • January 27, 2010: Headley pleads not guilty to all the charges of helping arrange the attack on targets in Mumbai and on the Danish paper.
  • February 23, 2010: A U.S. court adjourns till March 23 the status hearing of Headley.
  • March 18, 2010: Headley, who pleads guilty to 12-count of terror charges, including plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks at the behest of Pakistan-based LeT and conspiring to target a Danish newspaper, escapes death penalty.

Also read:

David Headley, who surveyed targets for the 26/11 attacks, gave Indian interrogators a step-by-step account of his training with Laskhar-e-Taiba. > Read more

“On one of my trips, October 2000, I made my first contact with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), quite by accident. I attended their annual convection in November. I was very impressed with their dedication to the cause of the liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation,” Headley writes. >Read more

The prosecution had moved an application to make Headley a co-accused. > Read more

Headley had done much of the reconnoitring of targets for the team of assailants who executed the 26/11 plot. >Read more

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 10:10:39 PM |

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