INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 577
" The Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra Government continue to assert on the basis of the interrogation of the arrested perpetrator that only 10 terrorists were involved. The operation involved detailed intelligence collection, reconnoitering the places to be attacked and the final planning and execution. It is difficult to accept that the same 10 persons performed all these tasks. There definitely must have been more people involved in the conspiracy on the ground in India, in addition to the Pakistan-based conspirators mentioned in the final invstigation report of the police---- at least performing peripheral roles such as intelligence collection and reconnoitering."
------ Extract from my latest book titled " Mumbai 26/11---A Day of Infamy"
The Mumbai Police, who were all along insisting that the case relating to the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai had been thoroughly investigated and that there were no more missing links or gaps in the investigation, have been embarrassed by the discovery by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US that David Coleman Headley, previously known till 2006 as Daood Gilani, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, arrested by them on October 3,2009, at a Chicago airport while he was about to leave for Pakistan, had been visiting India off and on ever since he joined the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in 2006 and had been trained by it.
2. The FBI was not aware of his LET background, his contacts with Ilyas Kashmiri, a former officer of the Special Services Group (SSG), who subsequently joined the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and his frequent visits to India from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) till October,2008, when they noticed a posting made by him in an internet chat group advocating an act of reprisal against a Danish journal which had published in 2005 caricatures of the Prophet.
3. The FBI obtained a warrant from a Chicago court permitting them to intercept his telephone and e-mail communications. Systematic interception of the communications led to their discovering his contacts with the LET and Ilyas Kashmiri and details of his two visits to Denmark to collect preparatory intelligence before mounting a terrorist attack on the Danish paper and his links with Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Chicago-based Canadian businessman of Pakistani origin, who was running an immigration services agency, which provided a cover for Headley's two visits to Denmark as a representative of the agency. Headley told the people whom he met in Denmark that Rana's immigration services agency was interested in opening a branch in Copenhagen.
4. What sounded the wake-up call in the FBI was that neither Headley nor Rana had initiated any of the legal and procedural formalities which were required to be taken before Rana's agency could open an overseas office in Denmark. It is this, which made the FBI realise that Headley's two visits to Denmark were not for opening an immigration consultancy office, but for preparing the ground for mounting a terrorist attack on the Danish journal. The FBI arrested Headley as he was about to leave for Pakistan on October 3,2009, with the video-recordings made by him in Denmark.
5. Interceptions of his communications before his arrest and his interrogation after his arrest brought out details of his visits to India and the plans of the LET to use him for another terrorist strike in India. The kind of alarm bell, which rang in the FBI offices in Chicago, when Headley and Rana showed an interest in opening a branch of Rana's immigration services agency in Denmark, did not seem to have rung in the Indian intelligence agencies when Headley and Rana showed an interest in 2006 in opening an office of an immigration services agency in Mumbai.
6.Headley managed to come to India at least nine times (according to media reports) and open an office of an immigration services company in Mumbai to be used as a cover for his activities. He also developed a network of contacts, one of which was with Rahul, son of film producer/director Mahesh Bhatt.
7. Rahul is presently a material witness in the case for a number of reasons. Firstly, he is the only Indian met by Headley during his visits to India whose name figured on more than one occasion in the E-mail communications between Headley and his LET controller in Pakistan. Secondly, when the LET sought Headley's help for mounting another terrorist attack in India it thought of Headley's past contacts with Rahul.
8. During Headley's nine visits to India, he must have developed contacts with dozens of Indians. Why did the LET and Headley remember and recall only his contacts with Rahul? That is a question to which the Mumbai Police must be looking for an answer. Rahul has done well in taking the initiative in contacting the police and briefing them on how he came into contact with Headley. His statement will now be verified by the police in order to determine whether he has told all that needed to be told. If he has, he will remain purely a material witness. If he has not, he will become from a witness to a suspect. Till the verification of his statement is completed beyond reasonable doubt, the question of the police giving a clean chit to him will be premature.
9. Since 2003, the LET has been thinking of mounting a terrorist strike in India from US territory. An LET cell in the US consisting of Pakistani-origin people and white converts to Islam was detected and neutralised by the FBI in 2003. Despite this, the LET has not given up the idea of using US passport holders for a terrorist strike in India.
10. What is new and worrisome in the Headley case is that the LET recruited a Muslim member of the Pakistani diaspora in the US and made him assume a Christian or a Jewish identity in order to infiltrate into India without creating suspicion. It would be important to get from the FBI copies of the original papers relating to his name change in 2006 and his obtaining a new passport under the name David Coleman Headley. It is interesting to note that among the places reportedly visited by Headley in India was Kochi, which used to have a large Jewish presence and has an ancient synagogue. His itinerary in India has had an anti-Indian and anti-Jewish angle.
11. A perusal of the FBI's affidavits against Headley and Rana shows that Rana paid his air fare for his travels to Denmark and Pakistan. Rana does not appear to have paid the air fare for Headley's travels to India. In Denmark, Headley was staying in shoe-string budget hotels. He had been spending money more liberally in India as evidenced by his two stays in the expensive Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, his visiting a local gym frequented by film stars, his hiring an office accommodation and a flat etc. Who was paying for all this?
12.Headley's visits to India coincided with two acts of mass casualty terrorism ---- the July 2006 explosions in some suburban trains of Mumbai and the 26/11 attacks. Did Headley play a role in the planning and execution of these attacks? Were there others who had helped him?
13. To find answers to such questions and identify the missing links, the Indian, the US, the Canadian and the Danish investigation agencies should work closely together. Our being totally taken by surprise by the activities of Headley in our territory, which had continued even after 26/11, clearly shows that the Government of India has not been able to identify and remove the major deficiencies in our counter-terrorism set-up.
14.We continue to be taken by surprise again and again despite the claims of a significant improvement made by the Government. ( 14-11-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )