The David Headley Confessions: Part-II
How David Headley trained in Pakistan and plotted the Mumbai attacks, in his own words.
‘How I waged war on India’
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.
"There is no doubt I am an LeT operative who was a part of the conspiracy to wage war against India.
The following LeT men were involved in the planning of 26/11: Hafiz Saeed (chief of LeT), Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (LeT chief military commander). Middle level commanders like Sajid Mahid, Muzzammil, Abdur Rehman alias Pasha, Abu Alqama, Abu Qahafa, Abu Anas, Abdul Aziz, Abu Hamza (considered to be an India expert who took part in the Bangalore attack of 2005) and Yaqub.
The David Headley Confessions: Part-I
Hafiz Saeed was in the complete know of Mumbai attacks plan which could be launched only after his go-ahead. He keeps abreast with each and every LeT activity, though does not show it in public. Sajid, Alqama and Qahafa controlled the Mumbai attackers from Karachi on GPS and mobiles. Sajid was in contact with the attackers of Chhabad House and told them to kill everybody there while Alqama directed the operations at Taj. Qahafa encouraged the attackers by repeatedly saying that the entire Muslim Ummah looked upon them.
I was also in direct contact with ISI officials Major Iqbal and Lt Col Hamza who have influence and control over LeT’s top brass. I briefed Major Iqbal, my ISI handler, about each reconnaissance visit to Mumbai. I carried out certain exclusive reconnaissance tasks for him as well.
I arrived in India for the first time on September 14 in 2006 at the Mumbai airport. I stayed at Hotel Outram and never called my Pakistani contacts from my new cellphone. This was done for me by Tahawwur Rana in Chicago. Here I submitted a form with RBI to open an immigration office for which I even appointed a Parsi woman as my secretary. This was a cover for me as I was super secretive – no one in India could imagine what I was up to.
I made extensive photographs of places like the Brihan Mumbai Corporation building, Haji Ali, Gateway of India, Hotel Taj, State police HQs, Azad Maidan, Marine Drive, VT Railway Station, Mumbai Central Railway Station, Leopold Cafe etc. My reconnaissance videos were appreciated by ISI and LeT and were crucial in carrying out attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Qahafa and I did a serious study on Google Earth to conduct the reconnaissance of Hotel Taj. We plotted the entire route and spot that the attackers would use through GPS and Google Earth.
I have also made videos of targets in Delhi, Pune, Goa and Pushkar and these too will be used by LeT and al Qaeda to attack India in future. Even the Kumbh Mela is a target. I shot some things on a camera given to me by my Pakistani mother-in-law. But I mostly used my mobile’s camera to do the recordings from April to June 2008 as well as in 2009 in India and Denmark. It has of course been seized by the FBI when they caught me from the Chicago Airport.
I think the LeT and ISI plotted the Mumbai attacks to shift the interest of the world from Afghanistan and to instill a new spirit among their own cadre which were getting restless to join jihad in that country.
Mumbai attacks were financed and supported by the ISI, pretty much like every other plan of the LeT is. Every important LeT member is handled by ISI officials. My handlers were Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali. Similarly Lakhvi was controlled by Brigadier Riyaz who is based in Muzaffarabad. Major Iqbal provided money for my surveillance in Mumbai. In fact the Rs 25 lakhs used to buy the first boat used to reach Mumbai was ISI money. This boat was used in September to reach Mumbai but that attempt failed and the boat was destroyed. Yes, there was a failed attempt by the LeT in September 2008. It was Ramzan and Lakhvi had gone to Mecca to pray for the operation’s success but the boat hit a rock and the attackers had to be brought back in another one. The clearance of this boat at the end of the Pakistani government and was arranged by Sajid.
I was the one who apprised the ISI officers of our complete plan to attack India in my first meeting Major Iqbal and his boss Lt Col Hamza.
After 26/11, LeT has created a naval wing under Yaqub which will be used against targets in India. They even had a frogman – a trained diver who can be used for combat - called Abdur Rehman and I think he was from the Pakistan Navy.
Initially, it was planned to target only Hotel Taj. Till at least my sixth reconnaissance visit to the Taj, it was planned that 2-3 LeT men will attack the hotel and will enter through Nepal or Bangladesh. After March in 2008, something happened (I think it was the need of shifting attention to India from Pakistan’s FATA area) and the plan of multiple attacks in Mumbai and the use of sea route began to appear in LeT discussions. The plan was to attack during an annual conference of software engineers there.
The would-be attackers’ photographs were revealed to me by Sajid. He pointed at one guy and said he was involved in the attack on PM Manmohan Singh’s rally in Srinagar in 2004 and also showed me Kasab and Abu Ismail among others. Sajid told me his close confidant Muzammil, who in fact introduced me to Sajid, was involved in the Chhitisinghpura carnage as also the Akshardham attack.
I briefed my ISI handlers and LeT’s Sajid as well as Lakhvi about my first sojourn to India. Before leaving again for Mumbai in 2007, I was briefed by the ISI men. I landed in India on Feb 21, 2007 but soon returned to Pakistan as there were some issues I needed to sort out on personal front. I left again after 5 days and did not inform my handlers about my movement. In the last week of February, I had married a Pakistani woman called Faiza Outalha, without telling my first wife. I got Faiza to Mumbai on my third trip in March of 2007 because she insisted. I put her up at the Taj and Trident Hotels to conceal the fact that she was my wife.
I was asked by Pasha to do some surveillance on the National Defence College in Delhi. I did not video tape it but just carried out some reconnaissance work there initially. My LeT handler Sajid was clear – he wanted me to conduct extensive work at the Taj. I did so in September and also videographed the Shiv Sena Bhawan for him. I even chatted with some security guards posted outside the building. I tried to get close to the PRO of Shiv Sena, Rajram Rege during this period.
In one of my return trips, I realized this was going to be an attack by multiple men on multiple spots in Mumbai. It was then that Benzair Bhutto was fatally attacked and I saw my LeT brothers praying that she should not survive it.
Lakhvi and a frogman that I believe was from the Pakistan Navy discussed various landing options on the Mumbai coast. Lakhvi wanted me to explore entry through Taj Hotel side and the frogman said I must verify if there were any Indian vessels so as to avoid a gun-fight with them. My ISI handler wanted me to make full utilization of this trip and suggested a large quantity of arms and ammunitions also be carried in preferably an Indian boat.
Some more targets were discussed – the Taj Presidency, World Trade Centre, Naval Air Station, Siddhi Vinayak Temple, Chhabad House, Assembly building, BSE etc. Here it was planned that the attackers would take a train or a bus and would reach Kashmir after attacks where they would lie low. But this option slowly died out and it was decided that Chhabad House would rather be used as a stronghold by the attackers. Chhabad House as target delighted everyone from Major Iqbal to Pasha.
On my seventh trip to Mumbai, I also carried out reconnaissance at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for the ISI. I conducted four boat rides at different places on the sea coast to decide on landing sites for the attackers. On April12, 2008 I visited the Cuffe Parade area and was convinced that the attackers could land there, which eventually they did. I also caught some fish while looking for suitable locations!
On my eighth trip, I visited the Osho Ashram in Pune. I also plotted the jewelry shop inside Hotel Taj – the plan being to loot it and use for funds. I bought some red threads that Hindus wear on their wrists to be used for attackers – it was my idea which was appreciated by Sajid and applied as well.
When I returned, I came to know that the attackers were being trained in Muridke and Hafiz Saeed, his brother Makki and top LeT brass were actively involved with it. I once told Sajid that the attack on VT Station may lead to killing of a number of Muslims. He dismissed it saying they would attack during iftaari, making that improbable. In August 2008, I checked SIM connections for the attackers – whether they would work in India. This I did at Wagah post.
Meanwhile, problems on personal front began to grow for me. My wife Faiza went and met Hafiz Saeed, complaining I did not take care of her. He told me to reconcile but I convinced him I was busy with LeT’s activities which silenced him. She also got me arrested in Lahore for eight days. My father-in-law from the other marriage rescued me.
During this duration, when I thought the Mumbai project had fizzled out, Sajid and ISI men discussed an operation in Denmark. I wanted to name it Mickey Mouse Project but Sajid rejected the idea and called it the Northern Project. We wanted to target the cartoonist who had caricatured Prophet Mohammad and also the editor of the paper. Sajid gave me Euro 3000 for a trip to Denmark.
An attempt to reach Mumbai by the attackers in the first week of November 2008 failed as they could not capture an Indian boat. But on November 26, I got an SMS from Sajid’s mobile asking me to switch on the TV. The attack on Mumbai had begun and it was all over the world press.
I met Sajid after the attacks and he told me that one of the attackers had been arrested. Initially we thought him to be Abu Ismail but it turned out that Kasab was caught. The attackers tried to secure his release in exchange of hostages at Chhabad House but it did not work. The plan of holding out at the VT Station was also dropped and instead the attackers killed some senior police officers and ran away in their car.
After the attacks, Lakhvi was put under arrest at the Udial jail where ISI DG Shuja Pasha visited him to understand the Mumbai attack conspiracy. Lakhvi gets home-made food in the prison and his family members as well as LeT members meet him regularly.
I made a final trip to India in March last year. This was to videograph various Chhabad Houses in India as also the Israeli embassy. I stayed at a hotel in Paharganj and that is also a vulnerable area. On this visit I carried out a detailed reconnaissance of the German Bakery in Pune. I gather telling Pasha on my visit back to Lahore that we could kill more Indian Army officers in an attack on National Defence College that had been killed in all the wars between India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Hafiz Saeed was put in prison but was said to be doing well. Sajid told me they had got clearance for more attacks in India, probably at the Jamnagar oil refinery. I was told not to contact my ISI handlers as Kasab was singing in an Indian prison. But I moved on to the Denmark project which was being coordinated by Ilyas Kashmiri and Pasha, till I got arrested while trying to fly out of Chicago. I volunteered myself as a suicide bomber for this attack as a Mumbai-type option didn’t seem too viable.
But I was arrested by FBI on October 3 2009 while I was going to Pakistan to meet my LeT handlers."