He not only hoodwinked the Indian officials by giving incorrect details in visa application, but also changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Coleman Headley. Yes, this Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist had accomplished a string of missions he was expected to do ahead of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. In his testimony before the special TADA court through video conferencing from an undisclosed location in the US, Headley harped on the obvious but also revealed a flurry of facts that would raise eyebrows of the investigators and give them enough clues to mull over.
It’s not a surprise to know that Headley named Hafiz Saeed as the mastermind of the 26/11 attack. It is also not news, at least for the people of India, that ISI officers collaborated with the LeT for the terror attack in 2008 that left 166 people dead.
Here are some of the crucial facts that emerged during the five-hour-long deposition.
How did Headley Come in Contact With the ISI?
If Headley’s statements are believed to be true, he was arrested near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with a drug peddler back in 2006. He was interrogated by an ISI officer, Major Ali, who introduced Headley to Major Iqbal of the ISI. When Headley informed them about his plans of going to India, they thought he could help them in gathering intelligence.
Headley’s Connection with LeT
Headley, the “true follower of LeT”, first met Hafiz Saeed during a training camp in Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) in 2002. According to him, he was motivated to join Lashkar after listening to a speech by Saeed and his lectures on “courses on Jihad”. While Headley identified Hafiz Seed as the head of LeT, he also admitted having worked for Lashkar under his aegis.
The Role of LeT and Two Failed Attempts at Terror Attack
Headley did reveal that the LeT had earlier failed to launch an attack in Mumbai on two occasions. The first plan failed in September 2008 when the boat, which was carrying all the weapons and explosives, hit some rocks and drowned. The second attempt, which also failed to execute terror attacks, was made hardly a month later using the same crew.
Training for 2008 Mumbai Attacks
The 55-year-old terrorist made a reference to his “colleagues in the Lashkar,” and how they were being trained by Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. For those uninitiated, Lakhvi is considered a key 26/11 plotter. Today’s testimony vindicates the stand of Indian intelligence fraternity when he revealed how terrorists were offered weapons and intelligence training near Pakistan’s Abbottabad. Interestingly, it is the same place where Osama bin Laden was killed in 2010.
Who Helped Headley Get Indian Visa?
The first step towards getting a visa was a change in name from Dawood Gilani to David Coleman Headley on Sajid Mir’s suggestion. He got an American name so that the process of entering into India becomes easy. While Sajid Mir, a LeT operative, was guiding him, Headley’s friend Dr. Tahawwur Hussain Rana allegedly did the groundwork to help him get Indian visa. Incidentally, Dr. Rana was Headley’s schoolmate for five years and also a doctor with Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi.
Headley’s Visits to India
Headley, in his testimony, admitted to visiting India eight times. He had stayed in Mumbai during seven out of eight visits and did a recce of major locations in the city according to Saijd Mir’s directive. He videotaped key locations that proved handy for terrorists during the attacks. Headley also informed the court that seven of his trips were directly from Pakistan and one was from the UAE. He also informed the court that few months after 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, he visited Delhi from Lahore. The day was 7 March 2009.
According to Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who is heading the prosecution team, Monday’s deposition is just one-fourth of what is yet to be revealed. Tuesday (9 February) will see another round of revelations with Headley seemingly keeping his promise of disclosing “full and true facts” leading to the 26/11 attacks and the role he played.
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