Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Pakistan Planned The Murder Of Innocent US Citizens in Mumbai

Prosecutors accused a Chicago businessman Monday of facilitating the November 2008 terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people in Mumbai, India. But the defense argued that he was an unwitting victim betrayed by a business associate and longtime friend.

As Tahawwur Hussain Rana's trial began in a Chicago courtroom Monday, prosecutors said he allowed his office, First World Immigration Services, to be used as a front for a co-conspirator traveling abroad to scout possible locations for the terrorist attacks, according to court records.

Rana is also accused of taking part in a plot to bomb the offices of a Danish newspaper that had published irreverent cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and angered Muslims across the world.
He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Charles Smith didn't deny Rana's connections with David Coleman Headley, who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges related to the Mumbai attacks last year.
The two men were classmates in high school and frequently loaned money to each other over the years, Smith said in his opening statement.

But he argued that Rana merely traveled to Mumbai to drum up clients for his business and didn't know about the attacks. Headley later tried to pin blame on Rana when questioned by authorities, Smith said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Streicker, however, said Rana and Headley were "best friends." She described Rana as a knowing participant who was aware of the consequences of helping Headley get a visa, rent office space and look like a legitimate businessman.
At one point, Streicker said, when Headley and Rana discussed the attacks, Rana said, "The Indians deserved it."

Rana is listed among seven co-defendants in a federal indictment, five of whom are unnamed and considered to be at large. Prosecutors allege the co-defendants are members of the terrorist group Lashkar-e Tayyiba, or "Army of the Pure."

If convicted, Rana could be sentenced to life in prison.

According to the indictment, Rana helped Headley obtain a fake visa to travel to India and approved the opening of a First World office in Mumbai. Headley, who is Pakistani-American, "misrepresented his birth name, (his) father's true name, and the purpose for his travel," on the visa, the indictment states.

Between September 2006 and July 2008, Headley made repeated trips to Mumbai, where he made video recordings of potential terrorist sites, the indictment states. In July 2008, according to the indictment, Rana allegedly passed messages from another plotter to Headley.

On November 26, 2008, a group of 10 attackers armed with guns, grenades and other explosive devices launched attacks on various targets in Mumbai, including two hotels, a train station and a Jewish center. Those killed in the attacks included six U.S. citizens, the indictment states.

After the Mumbai attacks, according to prosecutors, Headley again obtained Rana's permission to use his company's name as a cover to conduct surveillance on a Danish newspaper that had publish the offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Attacks planned in connection with that surveillance were never carried out.

Hatred of India arising from Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war drove him to the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, David Coleman Headley, the Pakistani expatriate who involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack told a Chicago court on Monday while implicating Pakistan's spy agency ISI in nurturing terrorism.

Headley, who took the stand as a prosecution witness on the opening day of the trial of his once close buddy Tahawwur Hussain Rana, told the court that he disliked Indians for "dismembering" Pakistan and was haunted by memories of his junior school being bombed. He and Rana shared room at a military boarding school where he said India and Indians were frequently discussed. He also mentioned that in the early speeches about Jihad, he heard it mentioned that, "one second conducting Jihad was equal to one hundred years of praying."

Headley was still being questioned sequentially about his involvement in terror and the nexus between the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba when the court broke for lunch, but his initial answers appeared to implicate ISI in planning and fostering terrorism.

He chronologically mentioned his handlers in LET, including the others charged along with Rana, in a recent second superceding indictment, including Pasha, Kashmiri, Saajid and Major Iqbal. He also related various types of camps he attended in different regions of Pakistan, ranging from essential espionage, to arms training, surveillance training and hand to hand combat.

"These groups operate under the umbrella of the ISI... They coordinate with each other," Headley told the court, recalling that one time, when he suggested that LeT sue the U.S government for designating it as a terrorist organization, LeT leader Zaki-ur Rehman said "he would have to consult the ISI."

Headley also related how his LeT handler Ali took his phone number and told him that a "Major Iqbal" would be calling him about an operation in India. The prosecution case mentions a "Major Iqbal," believed to be a serving ISI officer, who is alleged to have coordinated the Mumbai attacks.

Much of what Headley said is related in the prosecution's chargesheet but his elaboration under oath from the witness box puts Pakistan's terrorism sponsorship under the arclights. At many points during his testimony, Headley provided graphic details of his interactions with ISI and LeT personnel and their close ties.

Headley spoke of attending LeT lunches with the organization's supremo Hafiz Saeed, currently under state protection, and operations commander "Zaki," presumably Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, currently under arrest. He said he told them he wanted to fight in Kashmir but "I was told they (LET) would find something better and more suitable for me." That assignment turned out to be scouting Mumbai for the 2008 terrorist attack.

Wearing a casual grey jacket over a grey T-shirt, Headley began testifying after both the prosecution and the defense completed opening arguments that each lasted 45 minutes. In appearance, he looked more Caucasian than Pakistani, a fact that he himself remarked about when he spoke of the circumstances under which he changed his name.

Headley said when he was arrested in 2005 near Peshawar, the Pakistanis did not believe him when he said he was one of them. "They thought I was a foreigner." Subsequently, prior to the Mumbai attack, he said he changed his name, under "Zaki's advice," so that "nobody would be able to tell I was a Muslim or a Pakistani."

Earlier, maintaining that "not every player carries a weapon" in the terror game and supporters are equally as critical, the prosecution portrayed the defendant Rana as a maniacal plotter who was heard saying after the Mumbai carnage that the dead terrorists "should get Pakistan's highest military honor."

But the defense responded with a picture of Rana as a model student who went on to medical school and served as a doctor in the army, even as Headley, previously known as Daood Gilani, went astray. "David Headley is a master manipulator who made a fool of Doctor Rana," defense attorney Charlie Swift maintained.

Swift described Rana as "a master manipulator, manipulating three different organizations, the LeT, the ISI and the DEA (American Drug Enforcement Authority) all at the same time, while also manipulating several relationships and wives." Finally he sought to manipulate the government to secure his own life in return for 'betraying' Rana, he said, adding "Headley now needed a home run or a touchdown, so he changed his story and said Rana knew everything.

The courtroom drama aside, disclosure of ISI-LeT nexus and their involvement in the Mumbai attack comes at a time Pakistan's role in terrorism is under worldwide scrutiny, particularly after the US elimination of Osama bin Laden, even as the country itself is under attack from terrorists it has allegedly fostered. Headley's initial testimony, as widely expected, is seen to have exposed Pakistan as a state perpetrator of terrorism, even though its people are also victims of the same menace.

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