ISI provides financial, military support to LeT, JeM: Headley
Mumbai : Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI provides “financial, military and moral support” to terror outfits LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, Pakistan- born terrorist David Coleman Headley said today as he revealed more startling details about 26/11 attacks and his role it.
Headley, while testifying before a court here for the second day via video-link from the US, said he was working for Pakistan Army and ISI besides LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and that he knew about ISI official Brigadier Riyaz being the handler of LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was key man responsible for the November 26,2008 attacks in Mumbai.
He also revealed that LeT had planned an attack at a conference of Indian defence scientists at Taj Mahal Hotel a year before the 26/11 strikes and had even prepared its dummy.
But the plan was dropped because of logistical reasons, like difficulty in smuggling in weapons and personal and failure to know the schedule of the meet, he said.
Headley, who had visited India seven times to scout for targets, said he had also conducted a recce of the famous Siddhivinayak Temple and Naval air station.
“I was also working for ISI and had met many people from the Pakistan Army,” he told the Special Judge G A Sanap.
He said his assessment was that ISI and LeT were coordinating with each other.
“ISI provided financial, military and moral support to terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammed, LeT and Hizbul Mujaideen,” he said and went on to claim that his opinion was formed on the basis of hearsay.
When Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam asked him if he was paid by LeT and ISI, he replied in the negative and said, “There is no basis for this question.”
Headley, who had yesterday told the court that he was a “true follower” of LeT, today said ISI official Brigadier Riyaz was the handler of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. When shown a photograph of Lakhvi, the LeT operative identified him.
The 55-year-old, who has turned approver in the case, said LeT had planned to attack Indian defence scientists at a conference in Taj Mahal Hotel a year before the 26/11 strikes.
The “plan to attack the conference hall in Taj was cancelled due to logistical reasons, like it was not possible to get weapons and personnel to the hall,” he said, adding another reason for dropping of the plan was that he could not get details about the schedule of the conference.
“In November-December 2007, the LeT held a meeting in Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which was attended by (LeT operatives) Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa. In this meeting, it was decided that terror attacks would be conducted in Mumbai,” he said.
“The task of conducting recce of Taj Hotel in Mumbai was assigned to me. They (Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa) had some information that there was going to be a meeting of Indian defence scientists at the conference hall in Taj Hotel. They wanted to plan an attack at that time,” Headley said.
“They also made a mock (dummy) of the Taj Hotel,” he said about the plan which was dropped later.
Prior to November 2007, he said, the targets in Mumbai had not been decided.
During his over four-hour-long deposition which will resume tomorrow, Headley said the LeT group as a whole is responsible for the terror attacks in India and it can be speculated that all orders come from its top commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
He said he had been asked by Pakistan’s ISI to recruit Indian armymen to spy for them. “I was asked to gather military intelligence and recruit Indian armymen for spying purposes,” he told the court.
He said he also conducted a recce of the Naval air station and the Siddhivinayak Temple.
“Sajid Mir (Headley’s handler in LeT) specifically asked me to make video of Siddhivinayak,” he said.
Giving details of his Mumbai visits, he said on September 14, 2006, he had come here for the first time after joining the LeT.
“In 2006, I did surveillance of multiple places but at that point of time, the targets were not decided. I recced Hotel Taj several times in 2007. I also did general surveillance of many places in the city, but I’m not sure if I recced Trident hotel at that time. I recced the World Trade Centre then,” he said.
“In March 2008, when I came to Mumbai, I did surveillance of Taj Hotel, Naval air station and the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters in south Mumbai. I also selected landing sites for the terrorists,” he said.
Headley told the court that LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are all part of United Jihad Council working in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Continuing to spill the beans, he said that, “I met Abdul Rehman Pasha (retired Army officer) in Pakistan in early 2003 at a mosque in Lahore. When I first met Pasha he was with LeT. At that time he had no relation with Al-Qaeda, but may be after two years, he left LeT to join Al-Qaeda.”
On his links with militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s founder Masood Azhar, he said, “I know Maulana Masood Azhar as I saw him once in October 2003. He is the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed. In October 2003, there was a gathering of LeT and he was a guest speaker there.”