`ISI heavily involved in 26/11 attacks`

The ISI was heavily involved in preparations for the 26/11 attacks, according to reports.

Updated: Oct 19, 2010, 12:35 PM IST

London: The ISI was heavily involved in
preparations for the Mumbai terror attacks, according to
classified Indian government documents obtained by a UK newspaper.

The `The
Guardian` said that a 109-page report into the
interrogation of key suspect David Headley, a
Pakistani-American terrorist arrested last year and detained
in the US, makes detailed claims of ISI support for the
attacks.

"Under questioning, Headley described dozens of meetings
between officers of the main Pakistani military intelligence
service, the ISI, and senior militants from the
Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) group responsible for the Mumbai
attacks", the report said.

Headley reportedly claimed that a key motivation for the
ISI in aiding the attacks was to bolster militant
organisations with strong links to the Pakistani state and
security establishment who were being marginalised by more
extreme radical groups.

"Headley, who undertook surveillance of the targets in
Mumbai for the operation, claims that at least two of his
missions were partly paid for by the ISI and that he regularly
reported to the spy agency.

However, the documents suggest that supervision of the
militants by the ISI was often chaotic and that the most
senior officers of the agency may have been unaware at least
of the scale and ambition of the operation before it was
launched", the report said.

According to the report, European and American security
services now feared that LeT was moving from what has been a
largely regional agenda focused on Jammu and Kashmir to a
global agenda involving strikes against the west or western
interests.

"The documents suggest the fierce internal argument
within the organisation over its strategic direction is being
won by hardliners", the report added.

Headley reportedly described how "a debate had begun
among the terrorist outfits" and "a clash of ideology" leading
to "splits".

"The aggression and commitment to jihad shown by several
splinter groups in Afghanistan influenced many committed
fighters to leave [LeT]," Headley is quoted as having said.

"I understand this compelled the LeT to consider a
spectacular terrorist strike in India".

Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani,
reportedly told the investigators that the ISI hoped the
Mumbai attack would slow or stop growing "integration" between
groups active in Jammu and Kashmir, with whom the agency had
maintained a long relationship, and "Taliban-based outfits" in
Pakistan and Afghanistan which were a threat to the Pakistani
state.

"The ISI had no ambiguity in understanding the necessity
to strike India," Headley is reported to have said.

The aim of the agency was "controlling further split in
the Kashmir-based outfits, providing them a sense of
achievement and shifting the theatre of violence from the
domestic soil of Pakistan to India".
According to the report, Headley described meeting once
with a "Colonel Kamran" from the military intelligence service
and having a series of meetings with a "Major Iqbal" and a
"Major Sameer Ali".

A fellow conspirator was handled by a Colonel Shah, he
claimed.

Headley also alleged that he was given USD 25,000 by his
ISI handler to finance one of eight surveillance missions in
India.

"However, Headley describes the ISI director general, Lt
General Shuja Pasha, visiting a key senior militant from LeT
in prison after the attacks in a bid "to understand" the
operation, implying that, as many western security agencies
suspect, the top ranks of the agency were unaware of at least
the scale of the planned strike", the report said.

An ISI spokesman told The Guardian that the accusations
of the agency`s involvement in the Mumbai attacks were
"baseless".

PTI