Siddhivinayak Temple, scientists were terrorism targets: David Headley


Lashkar Operative David Headley who has been held captive in an undisclosed location in the US has deposited Pakistani involvement in 2008 Mumbai attacks before a special court via video conferencing. He named Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed as the head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and identified former Pakistani Army officers associated with the ISI. Headley named Major Ali and Major Iqbal of the ISI and Lashkar commander Sajid Mir as his contacts in Pakistan.

Headley was testifying before special judge G.A. Sanap following his plea bargain agreement with the American government in 2010. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam termed his deposition “live evidence.”He  said it was a “statement of oath” of a person directly involved in the criminal conspiracy.

David Headley said he had joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 “for a course” in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan, the outfit’s headquarters. “I heard a speech by Lashkar head and was motivated. Hafiz Saeed ”˜saab’ is the head of Lashkarl,” he said. He underwent Daura-e-Am (preliminary training) and Daura-e-Khas (advanced training in weapons and explosives). Another camp called Daura-e-Ribbat (intelligence course) was held in Mansehra, 40 miles from Abbottabad, where Saeed and Lakhvi were present.

Headley said he visited Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with a friend and retired Major Abdur Rehman Pasha to meet a drug peddler Zeb Shah to seek his help in smuggling weapons to India. He was arrested in Landi Kotal near Afghan border, on suspicion of being a foreigner in a restricted area. He was carrying literature on India at the time.

Major Ali from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) interrogated him and was instrumental in securing his freedom. Headley had carried a Pakistani identity card which made things easier. When Headley told Major Ali that he intended to visit India, he introduced him to Major Iqbal, also of the ISI. They thought that Headley could befriend Indian army officers to gather intelligence.

Headley identified Lashkar commander Sajid Mir on whose instructions he had changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006. His former schoolmate Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a former Army doctor in Pakistan convicted in the U.S. for providing material support to the Lashkar, helped Headley obtain a multiple-entry business visa.

David Headley told the Mumbai court that two unsuccessful bids were made by terrorists before the 26/11 strike. He also said he had been instructed by the LeT to shoot videos of Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple and to conduct a recce of all places that were eventually attacked on November 26, 2008. “They had information of some meeting that was going to take place of defence scientists. So at the time, an attack would be conducted,” he said. Headley said in response to questions from special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, the LeT had debated whether to attack Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru.

Headley said that during his visit to Mumbai in 2007, he conducted surveillance of targets including a naval air station, the Taj Hotel, the state police headquarters and Oberoi Hotel. At the end of the day’s proceedings, when his testimony was being read to him for verification, he made an addition to the list: “And Bhabha Atomic Research Centre also, your honour.” Headley also made a video of Bhagat Singh Marg in Colaba, where one of the 26/11 targets, Leopold Cafe, was located.

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