In a significant claim, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley on Monday said that Ishrat Jahan –who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004 in Gujarat–was actually a suicide bomber of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.
The disclosure is likely to ignite a fresh row around the controversial encounter.
Testifying via video-link from the US, Headley spilled the beans on the 19-year-old Mumbra girl and picked up her name when quizzed by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam about a “botched up operation” mentioned to him (Headley) by LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.
Headley told the court that Lakhvi had mentioned to him about a “botched-up operation” conducted in India by another LeT operative Muzammil Butt where a female member of the
terror outfit was killed.
Prodded by Nikam to elaborate on the operation and the members involved in it, Headley said, “(I was told) It was a shootout with police in which a (female) suicide bomber was
To which the prosecutor prompted three names of which Headley picked up Jahan before telling the court that “there is a female wing in LeT and one Abu Aiman’s mother headed it.”
Four persons- Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
Headley also exposed how ISI and LeT majorly funded terror operations in India and financed him from time to time and that Pakistan native Tahawwur Rana visited Mumbai before the 26/11 terror strikes.
Resuming his deposition before a court here today via video-link after a day’s break due to a technical glitch at the US end yesterday, the LeT operative also said that RBI has turned down a request to open a bank account for their office in India.
Giving details of his funding, he said, “Before coming to India in September 2006, he received USD 25,000 from ISI’s Major Iqbal.”
“I also got 40,000 in Pakistani currency from LeT operative Sajid Mir between April and June 2008,” he told the court, adding that Major Iqbal used to regularly sent him money in instalments.
Also, Major Iqbal gave me counterfeit Indian currency once or twice in 2008, he said.
Besides Abdul Rehman Pasha, also from ISI, gave me Rs 80,000, Headley said.
“Tahawur Rana (Headley’s associate and a Pakistani native who operated a Chicago-based immigration business) used to send me money from the US in September 2006 when I came to India to do intelligence work on instructions of LeT,” he told the court.
The 55-year-old, who recently turned approver in the case, also said that “it was my idea to open an office in India. It was a part of my cover (as an immigration consultant). I had discussed about this with Major Iqbal and Sajid Mir and they both agreed to it.”
“I also told Rana that Major Iqbal had asked me to do intelligence work in India. Iqbal told me that if Rana was reluctant to be associated with this (Headley’s India operations) then he (Headley) should appeal to his (Rana’s) sense of patriotism towards Pakistan,” he testified.
“But Rana was not reluctant and he agreed readily for me to go to India,” Headley said.
Headley also revealed that Rana had visited Mumbai before the terror attacks.
“I advised Rana to leave India before the attacks as I was afraid that he would be in danger,” he told the court.
Headley also disclosed that Rana had asked Raymond Sanders (who ran an immigrant law centre in Chicago) to submit an application to the RBI to open a bank account for their
office in India. However, RBI turned down the request, he said.
Later, in January 2009, Major Iqbal told Headley to close down his office in India, the court was told.
Earlier on Tuesday, Headley had told the court that terror outfits like LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen were given moral, financial and military support by
the Pakistani intelligence agency besides making fresh revelations including about an aborted plan to target Indian defence scientists and famous Siddhivinayak temple here.
He said he was working for ISI besides LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and that he knew about ISI official Brigadier Riyaz being the handler of LeT’s top commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was the mastermind of the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
He named three officials of the Pakistan army and ISI –Colonel Shah, Lt Colonel Hamza and Major Samir Ali – besides retired army officer Abdul Rehman Pasha who was closely working with LeT and Al-Qaeda.
Headley said his assessment was that ISI and LeT were coordinating with each other.
“ISI provides financial, military and moral support to terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammed, LeT and Hizbul Mujaideen,” he said, even though he claimed that his opinion was formed on
the basis of hearsay.
Headley, who had visited Mumbai seven times to scout for targets, revealed that plans to harm the metropolis had started over a year before the attacks in 2008 and that LeT
initially wanted to attack a conference of Indian defence scientists at Taj Mahal Hotel for which even a dummy of the hotel was prepared.
But the plan to target scientists was dropped because of logistical reasons, like difficulty in smuggling in weapons and personnel and lack of details about the schedule of the meet, he said.
The LeT operative had said he had also conducted a recce of the famous Siddhivinayak Temple and Naval air station.
He said the LeT group as a whole is responsible for the terror attacks in India and it can be speculated that all orders come from Lakhvi since he is its “top commander”.
He had also told the court that he was a “true follower” of LeT, and said that ISI official Brigadier Riyaz was the handler of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. When shown a photograph of
Lakhvi, the LeT operative had identified him.
The LeT operative said he had been asked by Pakistan’s ISI to recruit Indian armymen to spy for them.
About plan to target Siddivinayak Temple, Headley said, “Sajid Mir (Headley’s handler in LeT) specifically asked me to make a “video” of it. Prior to November 2007, he said, the targets in Mumbai had not been decided.
(With PTI inputs)