Mumbai: One of the main conspirators in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, American national David Coleman Headley, on Monday deposed as a witness in the case and told a city court here via video-link that Pakistani terrorists attempted to attack Mumbai twice before the 26/11 strikes that killed 166 people but failed both times.
Headley told the court that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) made two unsuccessful attempts to carry out terror attacks before finally striking in November 2008, once in September and another in October. Headley said that he joined LeT after being “influenced” by its head Hafeez Saeed and took his first “course” with them in 2002 at Muzaffarabad.
Headley, who is currently serving 35 years prison sentence in the US for his role in the terror attacks, also said he changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006 so that he could enter India and set up some business.
“I applied for change in name on February 5, 2006 in Philadelphia. I changed my name to David Headley to get a new passport under that name. I wanted a new passport so that I could enter India with an American identity.
“After I got a new passport I disclosed it to my colleagues in LeT of which one of them was Sajid Mir, the person with whom I was dealing with. The objective for coming to India was to set up an office/business so that I can live in India. Before the first visit, Sajid Mir gave me instructions to make a general video of Mumbai,” Headley told the court here.
Headley also said that in his Indian visa application he had furnished all “wrong” information “to protect his cover”.
He said he had visited Mumbai seven times prior to the attacks on November 26, 2008. He even visited Delhi in March 2009, after the attacks.
Headley’s deposition took place before special judge GA Sanap in a city civil and sessions court in Mumbai, via video conference, from an undisclosed location in the US. The proceedings commenced at 7 am and will continue until 12.30 pm with a break in between. “This is the first time perhaps in the world’s legal history that a terrorist will tender live evidence in a foreign country. Headley will likely divulge the larger aspect of the criminal conspiracy behind the 26/11 terror attacks. This would strengthen the present trial pending against Indian nationals. The US government has supported the endeavour taking into consideration the global challenge of terrorism,” special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.
Headley’s evidence might help the prosecution’s bid to nail alleged co-conspirator and handler of the 26/22 terrorists, suspected LeT operative Zabihuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal. He is currently the only person being tried in the case. Executed Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab identified Jundal as his handler. Jundal also attended the proceedings via video conference from Arthur Road jail where he is currently lodged. His plea to be physically present during the proceedings was rejected by the court.
Headley is scheduled to depose on Tuesday morning as well.