Washington: The 26/11 Mumbai attacks could have been averted if the then Bush administration had taken seriously the warning and threat perception of Lashkar-e-Toiba`s global operations by a renowned French judge, a media report has claimed.
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, earned a reputation as a relentless terrorist hunter in his 30 years as one of France`s powerful investigative judges, met officials of the Bush administration in 2007 to inform them about the LeT`s threat and Pakistan`s double game, but American officials were not convinced by his argument, reported PBS`s Frontline and ProPublica in a joint investigative report released yesterday.
According to the report, Bruguiere argument was based on his years of investigation of French LeT terrorist Willie Brigitte, who after being caught had confessed to involvement in a foiled bomb plot in Australia in 2003.
During his investigation, the French judge found that Brigitte`s LeT handler was Sajid Mir, one of the key architect of the Mumbai terrorist attack.
"When Bruguiere questioned Brigitte, the links between Lashkar-e-Toiba, Sajid Mir and Pakistan`s intelligence service ISI began to unravel," the report said.
Bruguiere said that Brigitte`s case revealed not only that Sajid Mir was a Lashkar operative, but that he belonged to the ISI. Pakistani officials deny these charges.
"In three years investigating Mir, Bruguiere learned that he was connected to plots in Virginia, Britain and Australia. Soon enough, Bruguiere had built a case arguing Mir was a Lashkar chief with ties to the Pakistani military and the ISI, and had been leading terrorist plots across four continents," it said.
In 2007, Mir was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment by a Paris court while Brigitte was sentenced to nine years. "That same year, Bruguiere, who has extensive contacts with international intelligence agencies, says he met with a high-level Bush administration security adviser to discuss Lashkar`s threat and Pakistan`s double game. He says the official, whom he declines to name publicly, was unconvinced," the report said.
"There should have been a recognition that Lashkar had the desire and the potential to attack the West and that we needed to get up to speed on this group," Charles Faddis, a former CIA counterterrorist chief, was quoted as saying by the report.
"It was a mistake to dismiss it as just a threat to India," he said.
"Today Pakistan is the heart of the terrorist threat. And it may be too late to do anything about it," Bruguiere was quoted as saying.