26/11: Headley exposes ISI link, says Hafiz Saeed motivated him

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley told a US court that LeT boss Hafiz Saeed motivated him for carrying out a `jihad`.

Zeenews Bureau

Chicago: Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, who was arrested in the US in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, has started singing.

In his testimony to a Chicago court on Monday, Headley exposed Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) links to the 26/11 attacks, saying the Pakistani spy agency had lent support to terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in carrying out the deadly attacks.

"They coordinated with each other," Headley, who has pleaded guilty to involvement in planning the attacks to escape the death penalty, said. Headley was testifying as a star witness in the trial of his one time friend, Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana.

"ISI provided assistance to Lashkar" through military and financial assistance and moral support, he said.

The revelation is considered significant given outstanding questions of the ISI`s possible role in helping protect Osama bin Laden as he hid in Pakistan before he was killed by US forces on May 2.

US federal prosecutors presented Headley - son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, who changed his given name of Daood Gilani in 2006 to scout targets for the attack without arousing suspicion - after their opening statement.

Headley said he first started training in Pakistan more than a decade ago with the LeT.

Headley also said that LeT boss Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind the November 2008 attack that killed 166 persons, motivated him for carrying out a `jihad`. Saeed told him that the satisfaction of one second of `jihad` is equal to "100 years of worship".

Headley during his testimony before the pre-lunch proceedings said he wanted to get launched in Jammu and Kashmir but the LeT bosses told him that they will find something better for him. He said he disliked India.

The LeT operative also said he was in touch with `Major` Iqbal of ISI.

Headley, Rana`s old friend from military school in Pakistan, claims that two years before terrorists struck Mumbai, he began laying the groundwork for the attack, financed by USD 25,000 from `Major` Iqbal.

Headley said that when LeT leaders began talking about a possible attacking India, he suggested that he get involved.

"I suggested that I change my name and make a new passport to make it easy to enter India undetected," he testified.

After the attacks, Rana "told Headley that Indians deserved it", said Assistant US Attorney Sarah Streicker in her opening statement.

She repeatedly referred to Rana and Headley as close friends, charging that Rana allowed Headley to pretend he was an agent of Rana`s immigration business as cover for travelling on scouting missions to India.

Rana had a role in the Mumbai plot, prosecutors said, even as he sat in Chicago during the plotting.

"The defendant is not charged with killing anyone. He`s not charged with picking up a gun or throwing a grenade," Streicker said.

Referring to the sophistication of the Mumbai plot, she added: "Not every player carries a weapon."

Rana, 50, has pleaded not guilty. Rana`s lawyer, Charles Swift, told jurors that Headley made a fool out of Rana. Headley, he said, "had been manipulating people for years".

Headley, a convicted heroin dealer, warned Rana not to go to India around the time of the 2008 attacks, but that doesn`t mean Rana was privy to the deadly plan, Swift said.

Headley had been talking about his allegiance to the LeT for years but nobody, including the authorities, took him seriously, Swift said.

When Headley was caught in 2009, he knew he needed a "homerun or touchdown" so he falsely told authorities of Rana`s involvement, Swift said.

(With agency inputs)

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