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2 attempts to attack Mumbai failed before 26/11: Headley

Accused terrorist appears before court from US via video-conference

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

26/11 case: David Headley says ready to depose if he receives pardon

The attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people, commonly called the 26/11 attacks, were not the first attempt to destabilise India’s commercial capital by violence. Two unsuccessful attempts were made earlier, but it was not yet known whether the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had a role in planning these.

This was part of the confession made by David Headley, allegedly a US-Pakistan double agent who became a member of the LeT and played an important role in the conspiracy that led to the 26/11 attacks. The first attempt to attack Mumbai was made in September 2008. But the boat carrying the attackers hit a rock in the sea and weapons and explosives were lost. The second attempt with the same team was in October 2008 but that too failed. The third attempt was successful.

Speaking to reporters, Headley’s lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani said in Mumbai, “He (Headley) has confirmed that he joined LeT after being influenced by Hafeez Saeed. He has not explained the role of LeT in the attacks.”

Headley told the Mumbai court more or less what he had earlier said in the US: He met with a man called Sajid Mir of the LeT, and changed his name. He got a new passport and visited Mumbai seven times, mostly from Pakistan. Headley said he carried out reconnaissance as sought by Mir, his alleged Pakistani handler.

Headley said he and a retired Pakistani Army major, Abdur Rehman Pasha, were arrested in Landi Kotal near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border because he looked like a foreigner. Major Ali and Major Iqbal of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) used him to spy on India. Headley said, in the US, Raymond Sanders of the immigration law centre in Chicago helped him get a visa to India from the Indian Embassy in Chicago, based on fake information and the reference of Tahawwur Husain Rana, Headley’s school friend. Rana later became a doctor in the Pakistan Army.

He 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”. “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. This was the first case of deposition via video link from a foreign land.

Headley, an LeT operative, is currently serving a 35-year prison term in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks.

The court is currently trying key plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, facing trial for his alleged role in the terror attacks that had held the city to ransom for three days. The deposition of Headley assumed significance as it might unravel the conspiracy behind the strike.

The court had on December 10, 2015, made Headley an approver in the case and directed him to depose before the court on February 8. He had then told Special Judge G A Sanap he was “ready to depose” if granted pardon. Judge Sanap had then made Headley an approver.

The Mumbai Police had on October 8 moved an application before the court saying that Headley deserves to be tried by this (Mumbai) court together with 26/11 key plotter Abu Jundal as both were conspirators and abettors. The Mumbai Police said from a judgment passed by a US court against Headley, it was clear that he was a member of the LeT and he had played an active role in the criminal conspiracy behind the terror attack.

“This is for the first time in the Indian legal history that a 'foreign terrorist' will appear before an Indian court and testify,” Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had said on Sunday.

First Published: Mon, February 08 2016. 23:57 IST