Note: IPT researcher Abha Shankar filed this report from the Tahawwur Rana trial.
Links between Pakistan's intelligence service and the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba were discussed in the opening hours Monday in the prosecution of a Chicago man accused of facilitating the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. A Pakistani intelligence official, former Army major and a navy frogman were all involved in the plot, David Coleman Headley testified.
Headley, a lifelong friend of defendant Tahawwur Rana, pleaded guilty in March 2010 on charges related to his travels to Mumbai to scout targets for the attacks, which killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) assisted Lashkar-e-Tayyiba with military and financial help, Headley told jurors. He described how he went to Pakistan in 2002 as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, where he met up with Lashkar members and underwent training.
Two years later, he suggested that the group sue the U.S. government seeking removal from the list of terrorist organizations. Such a move, he was told, had to be run by ISI officials first.
That's because "they coordinate with each other," he said, "with financial and military support."
Pakistani authorities arrested him in 2006 as he tried to meet a drug smuggler, Headley said. After discussing his Lashkar training, he was introduced to an ISI official who was "very pleased" about Headley's plans to go to India.
Headley detailed meetings he had with an ISI officer named "Major Iqbal" to discuss the Mumbai attacks. The meetings with Iqbal were followed by meetings with Lashkar operative Saajid Mir, an alleged mastermind of the attacks.
Iqbal gave Headley $25,000 to conduct surveillance operations for the attacks. Headley said he handed videos from his various scouting missions to Mumbai to Iqbal before sharing them with Mir. The meetings also included head of Lashkar's military wing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, its trainer and explosives expert Abu Qahafa, and Yusuf Muzammil (also referred to as "Lashkar Member D" by Indian investigators). The meetings were held at Lashkar's headquarters in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir ("Free Kashmir") in Pakistan. The Lashkar headquarters were described by Headley as consisting of several buildings stretched over a few acres that included schools for children and older teenagers.
Rana is accused of helping Headley's surveillance missions by making it look as if the travel was connected to Rana's business. Headley used the Mumbai office of Rana's immigration company, First World Immigration Services, as a cover while he surveilled targets in the city. He also allegedly served as a communications conduit between Headley and a fellow defendant identified as Major Iqbal.
Headley, born in Pakistan as Daood Gilani, said he changed his name to escape notice as a Muslim or Pakistani and allow for easy transit through immigration on his reconnaissance missions to India.
Headley reiterated several times during his testimony that he told Rana about his meetings with Major Iqbal and Lashkar operatives. Headley also said he had mentioned to Rana about his meeting with "Pasha," a former Army major also known in court filings as Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Rehman).
Indian investigators have alleged Rehman, a co-defendant in the Rana case, was close to Osama bin Laden.
In meetings with Major Iqbal and Saajid Mir, Headley discussed ways to "motivate" Rana to help out with his immigration company in the plotting of the Mumbai attacks. Saajid gave several tapes on jihad and the fighting in Kashmir as a means to introduce Rana to "Salafi jihad." Headley said he and Rana discussed the definition of jihad and when it was acceptable to target civilians.
Headley also discussed his surveillance operations in Mumbai while working as an "immigration consultant" in the city. He said under instructions from Iqbal and Saajid, he took videos of major landmarks in the city, including luxury hotels, a nuclear research facility, Mumbai's bus and train terminals, and the offices of Shiva Sena, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party.
The Mumbai terrorists targeted the train station, the Taj Mahal hotel and a Jewish center.
Headley described the Shiva Sena as a "terrorist organization" responsible for the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, and the demolition of a Muslim mosque by Hindu extremists in 1992. Headley said he also befriended a man named "Rahul," reported to be the son of a prominent Bollywood film producer.
Headley also scouted sites for the Lashkar terrorists to come ashore in a seaborne assault on Mumbai. He took boat trips to find potential landing sites that he saved on a GPS device provided to him by his Pakistani handlers. His suggestion of a landing site on the West side of Mumbai near some fisherman shanties across from the taxi stand won him praise from his handlers, Headley said.
His testimony resumes Tuesday.