GAURAV C. SAWANT
There is pin drop silence on the 19th floor Federal court room of Judge Harry Leinenweber. The 12 member jury and benches packed with international media are listening in stunned silence as terror’s blue eyed boy describes how Pakistan’s ISI and Lashkar-e-Tayeba jointly planned and executed the worst terror attack on India with military precision. And LeT’s American operative David Coleman Headley should
know. He not only had a ring side view of the entire operation but was a part of the planning of this operation. In his low voice – often he has to be coaxed to speak up – Headley narrates how LeT and ISI jointly planned and executed the operation that killed 166 innocent people.
These are not allegations being leveled by India. This is the inside story of how heated debates took place between LeT’s operational commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakvi and ISI’s Major Iqbal on the perfect landing site for the 10 terrorists. And how it was finally a Pakistan navy frogman (name yet to be revealed) whose writ finally prevailed and Budhwar Park was finally chosen as the perfect landing site and
not Gateway of India as Lakvi wanted.
Lakvi wanted Gateway of India as a symbolic gesture of invasion of India but both the Pakistan Navy frogman and Headley who poured over India’s coastal maps over several days decided against it because of the heavy presence of Navy and Coast Guard in that area. ISI’s Major Iqbal also wanted two boats to reach India – one with additional arms, ammunition and explosives for future operations to be dumped but the LeT shot down the idea. It was also revealed that the 10 terrorists
were not on a suicide mission. Headley told the court room that he had been tasked to find a safe house where the 10 terrorists could live undetected for several months after the terror attacks to be able to carry out more attacks subsequently.
Some of this may not come as a surprise to many in the security and intelligence establishment in India but here in the United States there is alarm at the jointmanship between LeT and ISI. On trial in the Chicago Federal court is Pakistan born Chicago businessman and army deserter Tahawwur Hussein Rana but in the dock is clearly Pakistan’s ISI.
Wearing a black casual jacket, T-shirt and slacks Headley tells the Jury that ISI coordinates activities of groups like LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). He lists out names of Pakistan army and ISI officers who have either trained or handled him – Major Ali of Khyber Rifles Regimental Centre who met Headley when he was in detention in Pakistan’s northern Areas trying to smuggle in drugs. Major Iqbal of ISI, Headley’s handler at Lahore, Major Sameer Ali, a contact, Major Abdur Rehman alias Pasha and Major Haroon, another contact and handler.
``But it is not just officers at the rank of Majors who are handling terrorists or sponsoring terror,’’ James Krindler, attorney for the American victims of 26/11 tells Headlines Today. ``Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General ISI and Lt Gen (retd) Nadeem Taj, former DG ISI should come clean. Without their knowledge this terror strike could not have happened. Not all ISI officers are terrorists but the
rot runs deep,’’ he adds. Krindler should know. He has filed a case for civil damages against the ISI and its DG in a New York court.
Headley’s testimony helps fill in the gaps about Pakistan’s planning for 26/11 terror attacks. Headley, a convicted drug peddler in the US was on his way to the north west frontier province of Pakistan to buy more drugs with an ex Pakistan army major turned terrorist Major Abdur Rehman alias Pasha. Together they were detained by the police and came into contact with a Major Ali at the Khyber Rifles Regimental Centre. The officer was in uniform, introduced himself as an ISI officer. When
Headley told him about his sympathies for the LeT and the fact that since 2002 he had done several courses – religious, weapons training, intelligence gathering and leadership – with the LeT in Muzaffarabad, Major Ali offered to rope him into the ISI.
That is where Headley’s association with the ISI began. On returning to Lahore, he was contacted by Major Iqbal a serving ISI officer posted at the Lahore cantonment. He expressed dissatisfaction at Headley’s level of training and offered to have ISI officers train him.
``I was taken to a double storied white building in a residential complex near the Lahore airport where ISI non commissioned officers (NCOs) trained me over a period of time,’’ Headley said in response to a question posed by accused Tahawwur Rana’s counsel Charles Swift. Though Major Iqbal always came in civvies (civil clothes and not uniform) he drove an army jeep, Headley said.
Headley told the court that during his training in Lashkar in 2002, he came into contact with Sajid Mir and Pasha, both people he learnt to admire for their dedication to the `cause.’ Since he was American looking (courtesy an American mother), spoke fluent English, Urdu and Punjabi and had an American passport, LeT and ISI (Sajid and Major Iqbal) decided to launch him into India. Rana’s immigration company was the perfect cover. Headley roped in Rana and with the 25,000 USD
given by Major Iqbal of the ISI Headley came to Mumbai for the first time in 2006 to start his reconnaissance mission.
At the same time he always kept Pasha (ex Maj Abdur Rehman), who he met through a common Lashkar contact at a Lahore mosque, in the loop about his activities and association with both the ISI and the LeT. Armed with his cameras, posing as a immigration consultant and tourist Headley undertook several boat trips to study the harbour to find the perfect landing spot. He marked them all on the GPS provided to him by the ISI and LeT.
Lakvi wanted him to take a boat and come into the international waters to bring in the 10 terrorists but Headley was against it saying as a foreigner he could not sail out of Indian territorial waters without arousing suspicion. Headley also told the court that he also met Hafiz `saab’ (Hafiz Mohammed Saeed) at the Lashkar Headquarters. When US Attorney asked him who Hafiz `saab’ was Headley replied: ``He is the chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayeba.’
Both ISI’s Major Iqbal and LeT’s Sajid wanted him to take multiple videos of the second floor conference hall of the Taj Mahal hotel. They had heard that there was going to be an important conference of Indian Defence scientists and contractors and wanted to strike then, But Headley could not get either the guest list or the dates of meetings so final dates of assault could not be worked out. But at every step, Headley told the court that both the LeT and the ISI gave him the same orders. ``It was clear to me that Sajid and Maj Iqbal were in touch and compared notes,’’ he said.
Headley also told the court that ISI was unhappy that the areas that Headley filmed for possible attack did not include the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Major Iqbal sent him back to take pictures of the nuclear facility for ``possible future operations.’’
During the trial it also emerged that the 10 terrorists first set sail from Karachi to Mumbai in August 2008. But barely had they sailed for some time that their boat hit a rock and capsized. The terrorists were wearing life jackets and managed to reach the shore but lost all their weapons and ammunition. The second time in September they managed to reach the international waters but the moment they tried to hijack an Indian fishing trawler, the captain of the Indian trawler managed to
evade them. The Indian trawler was faster and swiftly sailed out of reach. The 10 terrorists returned to Karachi empty handed. Finally in November they succeeded.
Headley also told the court that the LeT team commander Sajid was in Karachi along with LeT’s Abu Al Qama and Qahafa along with others watching the entire 26/11 terror attacks and guiding the terrorists. When the terrorists inside the Jewish Chabad House lost their nerve seeing NSG commandoes rappling down from the Mi-17 helicopter and asked Sajid for guidance, he told them to use a mattress as cover and fire at the commandoes. Headley claimed the plan worked and the terrorists succeeded in pushing back the commandoes. When he narrated this incident to Dr Rana, he is alleged to have said Sajid deserved to be called Khalid-bin-Waleed, the great military commander who fought with the holy Prophet Mohammed PBUH.
Headley also said that it was Sajid who insisted that all 10 terrorists before being launched into India needed to be given operational Indian mobile phones and sim cards. With 9 dead, Dr Rana is alleged to have said they all deserved the Nishan-e-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military medal.
On Wednesday in the Chicago Federal court house Headley rattled off a list of top priority targets that included Bollywood stars, Somnath temple, Shiv Sena office and Jyllands Posten newspaper office in Denmark. His fifth high priority target was the National Defence College in Delhi. His logic ``More Colonels, Brigadiers and Generals
will be killed in a single attack than put together in all the wars fought between India and Pakistan till date,’’ Attacking the NDC was Al Qaeda commander Illyas Kashmiri’s idea and interest, he said.
In fact after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and with mounting international pressure, the LeT wanted to lie low but after having tasted success in the Mumbai terror attacks, Headley was already following the same surveillance procedure at Denmark, the court was told. Headley posing as a consultant of Rana’s immigration firm reached Copenhagen and went to the office of Jyllands Posten to place
an advertisement for his immigration firm. As he did that he made 13 surveillance videos of approach and access to the newspaper office, Copenhagen train station, King’s Square and the office building itself.
He told the court that Illyas Kashmiri sent him to England to meet his contacts who would arrange for funds, men and weapons for the attack as the LeT had backed down because of rising international pressure. However, the men in England instead of GBP 10,000 gave him only GBP 2,000 and no guns or men. A disappointed Headley reached Copenhagen alone. He saw Danish army personnel march on parade through Copenhagen’s King’s Square. Headley says, he struck up a conversation with a Danish army captain and found out that the weapons were always loaded. That’s when LeT’s Sajid suggested they throw a grenade at the parade, steal the weapons and then use them.
Before the plan could succeed, Headley was arrested and so was Tahawwur Hussein Rana. The prosecution maintains Rana may not have pulled the trigger himself but since he gave material support knowingly to Headley he is as guilty. His counsel Charles Swift insists Rana was taken for a ride by his master manipulator friend
David Headley. Swift insists Headley is guilty. Those who are guilty should be held to account. Unfortunately, he added, we’ve done a deal with them.
Either ways, the threat for India does not come much from people like Rana. The threat to India comes from people like Major Iqbal, Major Pasha, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Major Alis of the ISI. For India till the ISI is held to account – there is clear and present danger.
Headley, Rana, Maj Iqbal of ISI, Sajid of LeT and Pasha of LeT spoke
in codes and frequently changed their email addresses. However in
court Headley explained the codes they used to converse.
Marriage meant martyrdom
Investment meant plans for terror strikes
Old Uncle meant Hafiz Mohammed Saeed
In hospital meant either jail or house arrest
Doctor – depending on the context meant Illyas Kashmiri or Dr Tahawwur Rana
Company meant ISI
Bala meant Major Iqbal
Micky Mouse Project-Plan to kill Danish cartoonist