M A I N   N E W S

US court lets Rana off on 26/11
Finds no evidence to nail him for Mumbai attacks, but convicts him for LeT, Danish terror links
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington

Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago-based Pakistani native, was acquitted on Thursday by a US jury of conspiracy to provide material support to the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November of 2008. More than 160 persons, including six Americans, were killed in that attack.

However, Rana, a 50-year-old Canadian citizen, was found guilty of helping to plan an attack on the Copenhagen offices of Jyllands-Posten newspaper. He was also convicted on count of providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which is designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US.

Headley and Rana were longtime friends who attended high school together in Pakistan. Following his arrest, Rana had told FBI agents that he knew Headley was working with the LeT. Headley testified that one of his co-conspirators was a member of Pakistan’s ISI.

Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 on all 12 counts against him, including aiding and abetting murders of six Americans in Mumbai. Headley, who is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison, has been cooperating with the government since he was arrested in October 2009. He testified as a government witness during Rana’s trial.

During the trial in Chicago, the jury was presented with evidence that Headley had informed Rana of his assignment to scout potential targets for LeT in India. Despite being aware of Headley’s mission, Rana allowed him to open an office of his firm, First World Immigration Services, as a cover for his activities in Mumbai and also advised him on how to obtain an Indian visa.

Rana and Headley reviewed the latter’s surveillance activities in India. Rana also told Headley that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks should receive Pakistan’s highest posthumous honours. The evidence was presented in the form of transcripts of recorded conversations and e-mails.

“As established at the trial, Tahawwur Rana provided valuable cover and support to David Headley, knowing that Headley and others were plotting terror attacks overseas,” said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

The attack against Jyllands-Posten was planned in retaliation to the Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Headley testified that he told Rana of the plot and plans to travel to Denmark to conduct surveillance. Rana gave Headley permission to identify himself as a representative of his immigration business in order to gain access to the newspaper’s offices.

Rana faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined and remains in federal custody without bond.

US District Judge Harry Leinenweber ordered the defence to file post-trial motions by August 15, 2011. No sentencing date was set.

Headley testified that he attended LeT training camps in Pakistan five times between 2002 and 2005. In late 2005, he received instructions from LeT members to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times, leading up to the Mumbai attacks three years later.

The Man who knew too much

Dr Tahawwur Hussain Rana (50) deserted the Pakistan Army, immigrated to Canada, acquired a Canadian citizenship and set himself up as a businessman in Chicago. He owned ‘The First World Immigration Services’, a grocery store and a farm in Illinois which offered halal meat to Muslims.


Dawood Gilani (50) studied in the same school as Rana. His father was American and mother from Pakistan. Born in Philadelphia, he changed his name to David Coleman Headley, with a little help from Rana, so that he could hide his Pakistani background and travel to India. The FBI put him under surveillance after the Mumbai attack, their suspicion aroused by his frequent international travel despite no known sources of income.


He allowed Headley to use his office as a front; helped Headley to obtain an Indian visa, made most of his travel arrangements and allowed him to pose as the representative of ‘First Global Immigration Services’. But as the Regional Director of the immigration firm in Mumbai, Headley did not arrange for a single visa for any client. His ISI and LeT handlers communicated with him through Rana in coded e-mails. Conspiracy involving bombing public places, murdering and maiming people, aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens, six of whom died in the Mumbai attack.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation tapped Rana and Headley’s phone conversations and accessed the e-mails exchanged by them. The investigating agency also taped a conversation the two had in Rana’s car during a long drive. Headley made five extended trips to Mumbai, funded by the LeT and ISI, and traveled to Pakistan after each trip to brief his handlers.


Rana claims to have been contacted by one Major Iqbal, a serving ISI officer in Pakistan, who offered to sort out Rana’s ‘deserter status’ if he agreed to help out Headley. In his confessional statement to the FBI, Rana admitted that he knew of Headley’s links with the ISI and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. But he pleaded ‘Not Guilty’, stating that while he was familiar with the planners, he was not aware of the plot.


The most significant fallout of the Rana case is the irrefutable evidence collected to show that Pakistan based LeT and sections of the ISI and Pakistan Army helped execute the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Phone calls and e-mails accessed by the FBI corroborate Headley’s claim that Major Iqbal and one Abdul Rehman Hashim Syed alias ‘Pasha’ from the Pakistan Army played key roles in the Mumbai attack.





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