26/11: ISI involvement may surface at US trial

Allegations of ISI`s involvement in terrorism will be made public at the Chicago trial of Mumbai attacks from May 16, a media report said on Sunday.

Updated: May 09, 2011, 00:33 AM IST

Washington: It may be a while before the world
knows if ISI had any role in sheltering Osama bin Laden but
allegations of its involvement in terrorism will be made
public at the Chicago trial of Mumbai attacks from May 16,
which could put fresh strains in US-Pak ties, a media report
said here on Sunday.

Noting that federal prosecutors last week quietly charged
a suspected ISI Major with helping to plot the murder of six
Americans in Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, eminent
investigative journalist Sebastian Rotella wrote in `The
Washington Post` that the indictment has explosive
implications because the US and Pakistan are struggling to
preserve their fragile relationship.

Observing that ISI has long been suspected of secretly
aiding terrorist groups while serving as a US ally in the
fight against terror, the Post said the discovery that bin
Laden spent years in a fortress-like compound surrounded by
military facilities in Abbottabad has heightened those
suspicions and reinforced the accusations that the Pakistani
spy agency was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

"It`s very, very troubling," Congressman Frank Wolf,
Chairman of the House Appropriations sub-committee that
oversees funding of the Justice Department, was quoted as
saying by the daily. "Keep in mind that we`ve given billions
of dollars to the Pakistani government."

"In light of what`s taken place with bin Laden, the
whole issue raises serious problems and questions."

While the 33-page indictment in the Mumbai attacks names
the suspect only as "Major Iqbal" and does not mention the
ISI, Iqbal`s affiliation to the spy agency has been detailed
in US and Indian case files.

"The first public airing of the ISI`s alleged involvement
in the Mumbai attack will begin on May 16 with the trial of
(Pakistani-Canadian) Tahawwur (Hussain) Rana, owner of a
Chicago immigration consulting firm," the article said.

Rana was arrested in 2009 and charged with material
support to terrorism in the same case in which four
suspects were indicted last week.

"The star witness will be David Coleman Headley, a
Pakistani-American businessman-turned-militant who has pleaded
guilty to scouting targets in India and Denmark. Rana
allegedly helped Headley use his firm as a cover for
reconnaissance," the report said.

Headley trained in LeT camps before being recruited in
2006 by an ISI officer, Major Samir Ali, who referred him to
Iqbal in Lahore, it said.

Iqbal became Headley`s handler, introducing him to a
"Lt Col Shah" and giving him months of spy training before
deploying him to India, according to the Indian report, which
officials say repeats Headley`s confessions to the FBI.

Headley, the federal prosecutors said, was associated
with LeT and attended its training camps in Pakistan which
began in or around February 2002, August 2002, April 2003,
August 2003 and December 2003.

Headley assisted senior LeT men in planning and preparing
for terrorist attacks.

Currently languishing in a Chicago jail, Headley has
bargained with the US authorities that in exchange for his
guilty plea he would not be extradited to India or face death
penalty.

It was part of the conspiracy that in or about late 2005,
defendants Sajid Mir and Abu Qahafa, and LeT `Member D`
advised Headley that he would be traveling to India to perform
surveillance of potential targets for attack by LeT, and
recommended that he take steps to conceal his association with
Pakistan and his Muslim religion during his travels in India.

Federal prosecutors said that in February 2006, in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Headley changed his given name of
"Daood Gilani" to "David Coleman Headley" in order to
facilitate his activities on behalf of LeT by enabling him to
present himself in India as an American who was neither
Muslim nor Pakistani.

In the spring of 2006, Sajid Mir and Lashkar Member D
discussed with Headley the idea that Headley could open an
immigration office in Mumbai as a cover for his surveillance
activities in India, federal prosecutors said.

Further in June 2006, Headley travelled to Chicago,
Illinois, and advised Tahawwur Hussain Rana of his assignment
to perform surveillance for potential targets in India, and
obtained Rana`s approval for opening a First World office in
Mumbai as cover for these activities.

Rana directed an individual associated with First World
to prepare documents to support Headley`s cover story with
respect to the opening of a First World office in Mumbai, and
advised Headley regarding how to obtain a visa for travel to
India.

PTI