Mumbai: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Monday revealed a goldmine of information for Indian authorities on various aspects leading to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, deposing via video conference from a US jail before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap here. Headley is scheduled to speak again Tuesday.
Headley, an LeT operative who is currently serving 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks, detailed the sequence of events leading up to the November 26, 2008 assault as he deposed before Special Judge GA Sanap for nearly five-and-a-half-hours.
Among the stunning disclosures – two unsuccessful attempts were made in Mumbai in September and October 2008 which failed, before the final strike at multiple locations in south Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008.
Headley spilled the names of officials connected to the Pakistan Army and spoke of their role, its dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the LeT and others who were involved in the conspiracy, planning and execution of the 26/11 attacks which killed 166 people and injured hundreds more.
“Headley has made several sensitive revelations. We are satisfied with the evidence,” said a pleased Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
Headley also named LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and his close associate Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi — both suspected right from the beginning since the investigations were launched by Indian agencies after the attacks.
Naming two people directly linked with the Pakistan Army and the ISI — Major Iqbal and Major Ali — Headley unravelled how he was arrested by the Pakistan Army around 2002 when he was going to meet a drug smuggler to make arrangements to send arms and ammunitions consignments to Kashmiri groups fighting the Indian Army.
The two army majors also supervised his two-year-long training by the LeT at a camp in Muzaffarabad, which is in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), he added. Admitting he was a functionary with the LeT, Headley identified a picture of his main contact in the terror group – Sajid Mir – and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and said he was “inspired” by Saeed’s fiery speeches to join and was trained by the terrorist group in 2002.
The Hindu reports on the details of the Headley-Sajid Mir connection.
Both Saeed and Lakhvi used to address these terror training camps, while others like Abu Furkad, Sanaullah, Abu Hanzala, Abu Saif, Abu Fahadullah and Abu Usman were his trainers, he said.
In those two years, he was given leadership training, how to handle AK-47 assault rifles, bombs and explosives. To a query by Nikam on “sophisticated weapons training”, Headley said if an AK-47 was sophisticated, then he was trained to operate it. About the motive behind joining the LeT, Headley said he wanted to assist the Kashmiris fighting against the Indian Army in the border state.
But, when he desired to join the Kashmiris, Saeed dissuaded him and said he had another “important assignment” for him in mind. On the two unsuccessful attempts to wreak havoc in Mumbai that year, Headley said 10 terrorists were to strike in the first attempt in September 2008, but the terrorists’ boat hit some rocks in the Arabian Sea, resulting in loss of weapons and ammunition, but those on board survived as they wore life jackets.
The second attempt came in October, with the same people involved as in the first, but that also failed for unknown reasons, before the third and successful attack was executed on November 26 that year, he said.
Headley provided details of his passport with an American name and spoke of his 7-8 trips to Mumbai and one to New Delhi between 2006 and 2008 before the 26/11 attacks.
The trips included seven via Pakistan and one via the UAE. He made yet another trip to Mumbai on March 7, 2009, after the terror attack was successfully executed.
Sajid Mir, his LeT handler who had advised him to change his name even in the passport, had told him to make general video shoots of various locations in Mumbai. To a question by Nikam, Headley named one person — Raymond Sanders, a visa consultant, who helped him procure Indian visa in Chicago.
However, Headley said most of the information on his visa application was false — except his birth date and place, mother’s name and nationality and the passport number — as he did not want to blow his cover or get detected by Indian agencies. Earlier, Headley, 56, said he was born on June 30, 1960, in the US and shifted to Pakistan later where he changed his name to Daood Sayeed Gilani, which was appreciated by Hafiz Saeed and others in LeT.
Flanked by three people at an undisclosed location in the US — his attorney John, US attorney Sarah and a person identified merely as Bob — Headley was administered the oath at 7.30 a.m. and Special Public Prosecutor Nikam started firing questions at him.
“The evidence coming out today could be very significant,” said eminent lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, who is helping out Headley’s attorneys in connection with the procedural issues pertaining to Indian laws. Another LeT functionary, Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who is now facing trial in the 26/11, appeared through video-conferencing from Arthur Road Central Jail, appeared irked by Headley’s revelations and was seen taking notes.
At a previous hearing on December 10 last year, the special TADA court judge had pardoned Headley and made him an approver in the case, subject to certain conditions. Headley had already confessed to his role in the offences in the US for which he is seving a 35-year sentence.
The five-hour court proceedings — which will resume on Tuesday — were held here amidst tight security with over 100 policemen deployed in and around the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions Court.
He spoke about his training by LeT in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Abbottabad near Islamabad under the guidance of LeT founder “Hafiz Saeed sahab”, whose picture he identified in the court, as also its commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and how he got in touch with three officers of Pakistan’s ISI — Major Ali and Major Iqbal and Major Abdul Rehman Pasha.
Headley told the court that he had changed his name from the original Dawood Gilani after instructions from the LeT commanders, including Lakhvi, and ISI officials to carry out recce in India for an attack, an “adventurous” task for him.
He also revealed that the 10 terrorists, who struck at various places in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 killing 166 people, had planned to carry out the attack twice earlier — in September and October — but they attempts failed. Once their boat hit a rock in the seas, because of which they lost all the arms and ammunition and had to go back to Pakistan.
“I used to treat India as my enemy. Hafiz Saeed and LeT operative Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi also saw India as their enemy,” Headley told the Special Judge during his first deposition in an Indian court which began at 7 AM.
He also admitted during his examination in chief by special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam that he joined the ranks of LeT after getting “influenced and motivated” by the speeches of “Hafiz Saeed Sahab”.
Headley, who described himself as a “true follower of LeT, said he took his first “course” with them in 2002 at Muzaffarabad and had also attended a ‘leadership course’ which was led by Saeed and Lakhvi.
He said he underwent 5-6 training courses in LeT camps for about two years. “Daura-e-sufa is a study course and is held in Muridke in Lahore while ‘Daura-e-aam’ is a preliminary military training course held in Muzaffarabad in ‘Azad Kashmir’ (PoK),” Headley said. In ‘Daura-e-Khas, which is a more advanced training, he was taught to handle weapons, arms, explosives and ammunition, the LeT operative said.
He said he was also given ‘Daura-e-Ribat’ training, an intelligence course in which setting up of safe houses and reconnaissance are taught. The center where it is taught is in Mansera, 40 miles from Abbottabad, a place in Pakistan where former Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed by the US.
“With the exception of date of birth and nationality of mother, the place of birth, passport number, pretty much everything is incorrect,”Headley said of his attempts to get an Indian visa at Chicago, reports The Indian Express.