‘How I became a jehadi’
The following is a first-hand representation of what David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American terrorist in a US prison, confessed to the sleuths of India’s National Investigation Agency in June this year. It was obtained by Dinesh Sharma of Zee News from highly placed sources in the agency and is being reproduced in a two-part series on the second anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks.
"I am the son of a Pakistani man Syed Gilani and an American woman Serril Headley. I was born in 1960 in the US but we relocated to Pakistan after my birth. There I went to a military school, the Cadet College Hssan Abdal in the Attock district of Punjab. Soon my father divorced my mother and married a Pakistani woman. Two of my half-brothers from this marriage are civil servants in Pakistan, with Danyal being the Information Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office there.
The David Headley Confessions: Part-II
In 1977 I returned to the US to stay with my mother who ran a pub called Khyber Pass in Philadelphia. Here I dabbled in the video business and ran the pub, apart from studying accounting at a college. I got married to Shazia Gilani, a Pakistani, in 1999 and have four children with her. They have nothing to do with my activities and live in Chicago.
On one of my trips to Pakistan I met Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed in a public meeting in Model Town, Lahore where he was preaching jihad. I was quite impressed and touched and wanted to see this man more. It was in 2001 that I decided to join the LeT and fight for the cause of jihad. Since my video business was not doing well, I rented it out and moved to Pakistan where my thoughts on jihad and Salafi Islam got strength.
Hafiz Saeed is the Ameer (chief) of LeT. He is very close to ISI and is well protected. In my meetings with Hafiz Saeed, he rued how Bal Thackeray had caused damage to the Muslim Ummah (nation). The Shiv Sena boss is a target of LeT.
My training began in February 2002 when I went for the Daura-e-Sufa training of three weeks in Muridke. This was a training in philosophy. In August I went in for LeT’s Daura-e-Aam in Muzaffarabad. There I was surprised to see a lad from New Zealand who was a recent convert and was having a tough time following the course. Once, Hafiz Saeed visited us at the training camp. In April 2003 I underwent the three month long Daura-e-Khas at Muzaffarabad where I saw suicidal squads being trained for attacks in India. I was also trained on how to keep in touch with my handlers in what was called Daura-e-Ribat.
I was taught unarmed, close quarter combat in September 2003 where I came across an officer from the Pakistan Army who was an expert at this form of fighting and imparted training. In yet another week of training on leadership which was addressed by LeT commander-in-chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, there were serious discussions on how to tackle the ban on LeT by Pakistani government. Sajid, my LeT handler, was apprehensive about taking the legal recourse as he was worried about the evidence India could present against the organization.
During my training with the LeT, I travelled to a host of countries like Britain, Germany, France, Maldives, Sri Lanka. I never came to India as Dawood.
About the LeT, it is an organization based on the Salahi faith of Islam and it’s objective is to establish ‘Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (Rule of God). It is more inclined towards jihad in Kashmir though now there is also a debate in the organization about expanding base in Afghanistan. This has led to several splits in terror organizations including the LeT. Lakhvi has just about held the LeT together on arguments like Kashmir was nearest to their camps and that LeT had better knowledge of the area.
Moreover, this is also ISI’s official line – keep Kashmiri and Afghanistan movements separate.
Hafiz Saeed’ maternal cousin, Abdur Rehman Maki, is the foreign affairs in-charge of the LeT. My LeT controller, Sajid Majid, was his personal assistant. He is the son of an Indian from Punjab who shifted base to Pakistan in 1947. One of the oldest members of LeT, Sajid completed his Daura-e-Khas round of training when he a mere 18 years old. I started reporting to him from January 2005.
As my training ended, I started getting frustrated because the LeT was not ready to send me to fight in Kashmir due to my age. Finally they thought of using my service in another way. The LeT asked me to go to India and Mumbai was among other cities like Kolkata, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune etc. that were discussed as my base in India. The change of name, establishing an immigration office on behalf of my friend Tahawwur Hussain Rana (my Cadet College mate and a Pak Army deserter), using American passport to conceal identity etc. were all my ideas. For these formalities I visited the US in 2006 and obtained a visa from the Indian consulate on my US passport which had many stamps of my visits to Pakistan.
There I videographed the Taj Hotel and other sites which were attacked in 2008. I have even got footage of the residence of the Vice President of India, India Gate, Paharganj of Delhi, office of the CBI in Mumbai etc. This will most likely be used by the LeT in future attacks.
I was also in direct contact with ISI officials who have influence and control over LeT’s top brass and briefed my ISI handler after each reconnaissance visit to Mumbai. I carried out certain exclusive reconnaissance tasks for the ISI too.
After the 26/11 attacks, I got closer to Ilyas Kashmiri of the 313 brigade of al Qaeda as well as Abdur Rehman Hashim alias Pasha, who later separated from the LeT set-up. He is a retired Major of 6th Baloch of the Pakistan Army whom I first met at the Qadisiya Mosque in Lahore where he reads the Khutba every Friday.
A hardcore jihadi, Pasha once refused to fight the Taliban along the mountains of Tora Bora in 2002, soon after which he quit and began training the LeT cadre. I once introduced him to some of my old contacts from my drug-dealing days in the Khyber Agency. These were used to smuggle weapons in India. I told Rahul Bhatt about these contacts but not in the context of my operations, of course.
Pasha has a big set-up in Karachi which is being used for anti-India activities. He has met with Osama bin Laden many a times and the latter has named his set-up ‘Jund-ul-Fida (Army of fidayeens). I think some local Indians may be involved in the Karachi operations as it mainly aims at launching attacks in India using terrorists of Indian origin. It was Pasha who suggested that I work for al Qaeda with a contact of his and I had readily agreed.
The Karachi project has the complete backing of ISI and Colonel Shah of the agency handles Pasha. It was also involved in 2006 bombings in Mumbai local trains as was confirmed by Pasha. The latter has been arrested in Pakistan in October 2009.
Even the LeT has a similar project in Karachi which aims to trap fishermen from Gujarat and Maharashtra to launch attacks via sea. These set-ups generally comprise a tight unit of men who have lost their relatives in Kashmir or have suffered there in fighting.
One of these men was called Azmal who trained with me in 2003. He hailed from Maharashtra, I believe, and has been arrested by Indian authorities now.
In April last year, I got strong hints from Pasha that he was planning an attack on the National Defence College and the Raksha Bhawan in Delhi and that man from Rawalpindi was ready to do it. Pasha maintained close links with the al Qaeda through Ilyas Kashmiri who has become Qaeda No. 3 in Pakistan. The LeT has also conducted surveillance of Rajkot oil refinery which is a potential target. Once Pasha, Abu Dujana, ISI officer Major Haroon and I discussed a plan to assassinate President Musharraf. His operation against mujahideen at the Lal Mazjid decisively set the tone for jihadists in Pakistan.
My ISI handlers in Pakistan were Major Sameer Ali and Major Iqbal. With Sameer, I was generally in-touch over phone and email. Iqbal was I think in his mid-thirties and introduced me to the higher-ups in ISI. One of them was his boss Lt Colonel Hamza. I was the one who apprised them of our complete plan to attack India in my first meeting with both the men. The Lt. Col assured me of all help and said I must follow instructions from Major Iqbal. The latter provided me with USD 25000 for my India trip. They also gave me counterfeit Indian rupees for use in Pune.
Major Iqbal is a very professional man. He assigned a non-commissioned officer of his to train me on the basics of intelligence like how to create sources, how to take cover and so on. I was asked to apply these techniques on the streets of Lahore and I really enjoyed it. This was a much more scientific and effective training as compared to the LeT modules.
The LeT does have a women’s wing which is controlled by Uamm-e-Hammad who writes beautiful and inspiring songs for the LeT.
I first visited India in 2006 after I changed my name to David Coleman Headley in order to conceal my identity."