Mumbai, February 9
Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI provides "financial, military and moral support" to terror outfits LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, Pakistan- born terrorist David Coleman Headley said today as he revealed more startling details about 26/11 attacks and his role in it.
Headley, while testifying before a court here for the second day via video-link from the US, said he was working for Pakistan Army and ISI, besides LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and that he knew about ISI official Brigadier Riyaz being the handler of LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was key man responsible for the November 26,2008 attacks in Mumbai.
He also revealed that LeT had planned an attack at a conference of Indian defence scientists at Taj Mahal Hotel a year before the 26/11 strikes and had even prepared its dummy.
But the plan was dropped because of logistical reasons, like difficulty in smuggling in weapons and personal and failure to know the schedule of the meet, he said.
Headley, who had visited India seven times to scout for targets, said he had also conducted a recce of the famous Siddhivinayak Temple and Naval air station.
"I was also working for ISI and had met many people from the Pakistan Army," he told the Special Judge G A Sanap.
He said his assessment was that ISI and LeT were coordinating with each other.
"ISI provided financial, military and moral support to terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammed, LeT and Hizbul Mujaideen," he said and went on to claim that his opinion was formed on the basis of hearsay.
When Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam asked him if he was paid by LeT and ISI, he replied in the negative and said, "There is no basis for this question." Headley, who had yesterday told the court that he was a "true follower" of LeT, today said ISI official Brigadier Riyaz was the handler of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. When shown a photograph of Lakhvi, the LeT operative identified him.
The 55-year-old, who has turned approver in the case, said LeT had planned to attack Indian defence scientists at a conference in Taj Mahal Hotel a year before the 26/11 strikes.
The "plan to attack the conference hall in Taj was cancelled due to logistical reasons, like it was not possible to get weapons and personnel to the hall," he said, adding another reason for dropping of the plan was that he could not get details about the schedule of the conference.
"In November-December 2007, the LeT held a meeting in Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which was attended by (LeT operatives) Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa. In this meeting, it was decided that terror attacks would be conducted in Mumbai," he said.
"The task of conducting recce of Taj Hotel in Mumbai was assigned to me. They (Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa) had some information that there was going to be a meeting of Indian defence scientists at the conference hall in Taj Hotel. They wanted to plan an attack at that time," Headley said.
"They also made a mock (dummy) of the Taj Hotel," he said about the plan, which was dropped later.
Prior to November 2007, he said, the targets in Mumbai had not been decided.
'Pak ISI told me recruit spies in Indian Army'
Headley said he had been asked by Pakistan's ISI to recruit Indian armymen to spy for them. "I was asked to gather military intelligence and recruit Indian armymen for spying purposes," he told the court.
He said he also conducted a recce of the Naval air station and the Siddhivinayak Temple.
Giving details of his Mumbai visits, he said on September 14, 2006, he had come here for the first time after joining the LeT.
"In 2006, I did surveillance of multiple places but at that point of time, the targets were not decided. I recced Hotel Taj several times in 2007. I also did general surveillance of many places in the city, but I'm not sure if I recced Trident hotel at that time. I recced the World Trade Centre then," he said.
"In March 2008, when I came to Mumbai, I did surveillance of Taj Hotel, Naval air station and the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters in south Mumbai. I also selected landing sites for the terrorists," he said.
Headley told the court that LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are all part of United Jihad Council working in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
He said: "I met Abdul Rehman Pasha (retired Army officer) in Pakistan in early 2003 at a mosque in Lahore. When I first met Pasha he was with LeT. At that time he had no relation with Al-Qaeda, but may be after two years, he left LeT to join Al-Qaeda." On his links with militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed's founder Masood Azhar, he said: "I know Maulana Masood Azhar as I saw him once in October 2003. He is the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed. In October 2003, there was a gathering of LeT and he was a guest speaker there."
Headley also named three officials of the Pakistan army and ISI — Colonel Shah, Lt Colonel Hamza and Major Samir Ali.
"I met Major Iqbal of ISI in Lahore in early 2006. He asked me to gather military intelligence from India and also try to recruit someone from the Indian military to spy. I told Major Iqbal that I would do as he asked," Headley said.
"Samir Ali also wanted me to do some intelligence work in India. I was in contact with Samir Ali over phone," he said.
'Cant' be sure if Lakhvi odered the attack'
He told the court that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was the "operational and spiritual" head of LeT. But, when asked if Lakhvi was the one who ordered attacks in India, Headley said he could not be sure.
"I cannot tell this court who specifically from LeT instructed to conduct terror acts in India. The group as a whole was responsible. We can, however, speculate that since Zaki-ur-Rehman was the head of operations of LeT, and hence all orders would have logically come from him," he said.
He further said that he had "discussed with LeT leaders Hafiz Sahab and Zaki-ur-Rehman 'sahab' that it would be a good idea to take the US government to court to challenge its decision to designate LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation and banning it."
"Hafiz said it was a good idea but then did not say anything more. Zaki thought it will be a long process and many agencies of the Pakistani government like the ISI will have to be involved," said Headley, while appearing from an undisclosed location via video conferencing.
Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks, also revealed that his wife had complained to police about his links with LeT.
"In December 2007, my wife Faiza lodged a complaint with the Racecourse police in Lahore claiming I had duped her of money. In January 2008, she complained to the US Embassy in Islamabad that I was involved in terrorist activities and was closely associated with LeT," he said.
"Later when I asked her about this complaint, she told me that the "US Embassy officials seemed to have believed her," he said.
Headley’s witness assumes significance to help counter Pakistan's argument that attacks in India are carried out by "non-State actors" and that its army and ISI have nothing to do with them.
Ten LeT terrorists, who came from Karachi via the Arabian Sea on November 26,2008, targeted several places in Mumbai, leaving 166 dead and 309 injured. During the gunbattle with security forces which went on for 60 hours, the attackers were in continuous touch with their handlers in Pakistan.
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 (today).
He had then told Special Judge G A Sanap that he was "ready to depose" if granted pardon.
The court is currently trying key plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal in the case of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Headley will continue his testimony on Wednesday. — PTI