26/11: Headley charged with conspiracy

Terror suspect David Headley has been charged with conspiracy in 26/11 terror attacks.

Updated: Dec 08, 2009, 09:59 AM IST

Washington: US law enforcement authorities Monday filed charges against suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative and Chicago resident David Coleman Headley specifically accusing him of involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Headley, 49, is currently in federal custody without bond since his arrest on Oct 3.

"New federal charges filed today allege that a Chicago man (Headley), who was arrested in October for planning terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper and two of its employees, also conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the November 2008 terrorist attack on India`s largest city that killed approximately 170 people, including six Americans, and injured hundreds more," an official release from the US Attorney`s office here said.

Simultaneously, the authorities have unsealed a criminal complaint in a federal court against Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired major in the Pakistani army "with conspiracy in planning to attack the Danish newspaper and its employees."

"Headley, 49, was charged in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, to provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to Lashkar (e-Taiba LeT), and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India," the release said.

Through his attorneys, Headley has authorized the Justice Department to disclose that he is cooperating in the ongoing investigation of both the Danish and Indian terror plots.

He has remained in federal custody without bond since he was arrested in Chicago on Oct 3, 2009. No date has been set yet for his arraignment in US District Court in Chicago.

There is no date set for his arraignment yet. He has also been accused of conspiring with LeT members and others "in planning and executing the attacks in both Denmark and India."

Another Chicago man, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen and native of Pakistan, was arrested in October on federal charges filed in Chicago relating to the Danish terrorism plot.

The charges were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The US Attorney`s Office for the Central District of California and the FBI`s offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are also participating in the case.

According to the charges, "after learning from members of Lashkar in late 2005 that he would be traveling to India to perform surveillance for Lashkar, Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani on Feb 15, 2006, in Philadelphia, in order to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani. He later made five extended trips to Mumbai - in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008 - each time taking pictures and making videotapes of various targets, including those attacked in November 2008."

The six Americans killed during the three-day siege are identified in the charges as Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr, and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.

"After being tasked in late 2005 with gathering surveillance in Mumbai and changing his name in early 2006, the charges allege that Headley traveled to Chicago in June 2006 and advised a person identified in the charges as Individual A of his assignment. Headley obtained Individual A`s approval to open an office of First World Immigration Services in Mumbai in 2006 as cover for his surveillance activities, the charges allege. Headley allegedly misrepresented his birth name, father`s true name and the purpose of his travel in his visa application," the release said.

"After each trip that Headley took to India between September 2006 and July 2008, he allegedly returned to Pakistan, met with other co-conspirators and provided them with photographs, videos and oral descriptions of various locations. In March 2008, Headley and his co-conspirators discussed potential landing sites for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea in Mumbai, and he was instructed to take boat trips in and around the Mumbai harbor and take surveillance video, which he did during his visit to India starting in April 2008," the charges allege.

At various times, Headley allegedly conducted surveillance of other locations in Mumbai and elsewhere in India of facilities and locations that were not attacked in November 2008, including the National Defense College in Delhi, India.

"The two-count complaint unsealed against Abdur Rehman, which was filed on Oct. 20, 2009, charges him with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in a foreign country, and providing material support to that foreign terrorism conspiracy," the release said.

The count against Headley charging conspiracy to bomb public places in India that resulted in deaths carries a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment or death.

"This investigation remains active and ongoing. The team of prosecutors and agents will continue to seek charges against the other persons responsible for these attacks. I continue to express my deep appreciation to the FBI agents and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their extremely hard work on this matter," Fitzgerald said.

"This case serves as a reminder that the terrorist threat is global in nature and requires constant vigilance at home and abroad," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "We continue to share leads developed in this investigation with our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners as we work together on this important matter."

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, said: "This case illustrates the importance of continued global cooperation to combat terrorism around the world. The FBI continues to strengthen relationships and to foster collaboration with our international partners to best ensure our collective ability to identify and disrupt international terror networks."