`Headley wanted to retaliate against India`

Last Updated: Sunday, November 22, 2009 - 11:47

Washington: David Headley, a Pakistani origin American citizen at the centre of a global terrorism investigation on charges of plotting terror attacks in India and Denmark, has been portrayed as a man "with feet in East and West". He also wrote in e-mail messages about retaliation against India.

"The trip from a strict Pakistani boarding school to a bohemian bar in Philadelphia has defined David Headley`s life," The New York Times wrote Sunday in a report with inputs from Pakistan, Canada and the US.

Raised by his father in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, Headley arrived back in Philadelphia at 17 to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar called the Khyber Pass.

"Today, Headley is an Islamic fundamentalist who once liked to get high. He has a traditional Pakistani wife, who lives with their children in Chicago, but also an American girlfriend - a makeup artist in New York," the daily said citing a relative and friends.

"Depending on the setting, he alternates between the name he adopted in the United States, David Headley, and the Urdu one he was given at birth, Daood Gilani. Even his eyes - one brown, the other green - hint at roots in two places," the newspaper said.

Headley is accused of being the lead operative in a loose-knit group of militants plotting revenge against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Accused co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who was born in Pakistan, is a citizen of Canada and runs businesses in Chicago.

The men, who became close friends in a military academy outside Islamabad, were arrested last month in Chicago. Since then, the investigation has widened beyond Chicago and Copenhagen.

The authorities have learned more, with cooperation from Headley, about the two men`s network of contacts with known terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani militant group, as well as officials in the Pakistani government and military, the NYT said.

United States and Indian investigators are also looking closely into whether the two Chicago men, who travelled to Mumbai before the deadly assault there last November, may have been involved in the plot.

Headley, 49, and Rana, 48, stand out from the young, poor extremists from fundamentalist Islamic schools who strike targets in or close to their homelands, the times noted.

Instead, their privileged backgrounds, extensive travel and bouts of culture shock make them more like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks, who attended college in the US, and Mohammed Atta, one of the lead hijackers.

In 1998, Gilani, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the country from Pakistan, the newspaper said. In 2006, he changed his name to David Headley, apparently to make border crossings between the US and other countries easier, court documents say. Headley also shifted to Chicago where he claimed to work for Rana`s immigration agency.

E-mail messages of his show that Headley stayed in regular contact with classmates from the military high school he attended in Pakistan, often engaging in impassioned debates about politics and Islam, the Times said.

Earlier this year, Headley complained about "NATO criminal vermin dropping 22,000 lbs bombs on unsuspecting, unarmed Afghan villagers" or "napalming southeast Asian farmers." Writing about Pakistan`s chief enemy, he said, "We will retaliate against India."

IANS



First Published: Sunday, November 22, 2009 - 11:47

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