Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Chicago - A key co-plotter of the Mumbai attacks, David Coleman
Headley testified in the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana
describing how he gave frequent updates about his progress to his two
Pakistani handlers -- one from a militant group and the other from
the country's main intelligence agency.
The federal terrorism trial of businessman Tahawwur Rana is being
closely watched around the world for what the attack's scout --
Rana's longtime friend David Coleman Headley -- might reveal about
possible links between the anti-India militant group, Lashkar-e-
Taiba, and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as
Headley already has pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for the
Mumbai attacks, and he agreed to testify against Rana to avoid the
death penalty, making him one of the most valuable U.S. government
What Headley says during the trial has the potential to inflame
tensions between Pakistan and India and place more pressure on the
already frayed U.S. and Pakistani relations. His testimony also could
add to the questions about Pakistan's commitment to catch terrorists
and the ISI's connections to Pakistan-based terror groups, especially
after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a military
garrison town outside Islamabad earlier this month.
The Pakistani government has denied that the ISI orchestrated three-
day siege in Mumbai that left more than 160 people dead, including
six Americans. Pakistani intelligence officials have not commented on
"Headley's testimony is a nail in the coffin of U.S.-Pakistani
strategic cooperation," said Bruce Riedel, a former White House
adviser on Middle Eastern and South Asian issues. "Until now his
commentary has gotten very little attention outside India, now it
will finally get the attention it deserves here."
After opening statements Monday, the government called Headley, a
Pakistani-American, to the witness stand where he spent hours
detailing the formulation of the attacks and Rana's alleged help in
providing cover for his surveillance activities in India.
Headley, clean-shaven and balding, wore a light blue golf shirt with
a dark windbreaker during testimony at the federal courthouse in
Chicago. Speaking so softly at times that attorneys had to remind him
to speak louder, Headley said he has been involved with Lashkar-e-
Taiba for more than a decade, but he wasn't working with someone in
the ISI until years later after he was arrested by tribal police near
Afghanistan. It was then he said he met a major in the ISI and told
him what he and Lashkar were planning.
This ISI major, Headley said, was "very pleased" with what he heard
and asked if Headley would work with one of his ISI associates.
Headley agreed and said he was released from custody. Headley soon
received a call from a man he referred to during his testimony as
"Major Iqbal," which the U.S. government says is an alias. Headley
said he then met Iqbal in a safe house in Lahore, Pakistan and
described his plans with Lashkar and his assignment to take videos of
Mumbai in preparation of an operation.
Headley said ISI provided financial and military assistance to
Lashkar, and he assumed they worked under the same umbrella. He said
Iqbal and his Lashkar handler,Sajid Mir, were in communication, but
he would meet with them separately in Pakistan. Headley said when he
would take videos of sights in Mumbai, he would first share them with
Iqbal and then with Mir.
"They coordinated with each other and ISI provided assistance to
Lashkar," Headley told jurors.
Before moving to Mumbai in late 2006, Headley said he first came to
Chicago, met with Rana and explained the plot in hopes of persuading
Rana to let him open a branch of his immigration services business as
"I knew my friend had an office and I could persuade him to help us
out," Headley told jurors.
With Rana's help, Headley said he set up an immigration consulting
business in Mumbai and secured work visas to travel in and out of
India. Headley described conversations he had with Rana while he was
visiting in Chicago, and the prosecution showed emails between the
two men discussing the immigration business and Mumbai operation
through coded words.
Headley said he first told Rana about his involvement with Lashkar in
In August 2005. Headley said his friend was surprised to learn this,
but did not say he disapproved.
Earlier Monday, attorneys painted opposing portraits of Rana, a
Pakistani-born Canadian who has lived in Chicago for years.
"The defendant knew all too well that when Headley travels to a
foreign country, people may die," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah
Streicker told jurors.
But defense attorney Charles Swift described Headley as a man who had
been manipulating people for years, including Rana, a Pakistani-born
Canadian who has lived in Chicago for years. Swift said Headley has a
history of cooperating with the government in order to get out of
trouble and spoke of Headley's work with the Drug Enforcement
Administration in the 1990s. At one point, Swift said, Headley was
working for the DEA, Lashkar and Pakistani intelligence at the same
Rana, 50, has pleaded not guilty in the case. His name is the seventh
one on the federal indictment, and the only defendant in custody.
Among the six others charged in absentia is Mir and Iqbal.
Headley's testimony is expected to resume Tuesday morning.
Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi
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