LeT planned to attack defence scientists, designed dummy of Taj Hotel: Headley
Mumbai : Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley today said that the LeT had planned to attack Indian defence scientists at the Taj Mahal Hotel a year before the 26/11 strikes and that he had conducted a recce of the Naval air station and the Siddhivinayak Temple.
Testifying before a Mumbai court for the second day via video-link, Headley also said that he was asked by Pakistan’s ISI to recruit Indian armymen to spy for them.
“In November, December 2007, the LeT held a meeting in Muzaffarabad which was attended by Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa. In this meeting it was decided that terror attacks would be conducted in Mumbai.”
“The task of conducting recce of Taj Hotel in Mumbai was assigned to me. They (Sajid and 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. However, the meeting of the scientists was cancelled,” he said, adding that prior to November 2007, the place was not decided where terror attacks would be conducted in India.
Headley later said that 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.”
Giving details of his Mumbai visit, he said that on September 14, 2006, he had come to Mumbai 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,” he said.
“In March 2008, when I came to Mumbai, I did surveillance of multiple places like the Taj Hotel, Naval air station and the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters in south Mumbai. I also selected landing sites for the terrorists,” said the 55-year-old, who has turned approver in the case.
Headley said the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) was surveyed not as a target, but for those terrorists (implying the 26/11 attackers) to escape.
“I made a video of the entire Colaba stretch from Leopold Cafe to the Chabad house (Nariman House). I also made a video of Siddhivinayak Temple as Sajid Mir (Headley’s handler in LeT) specifically asked me to do so,” he said.
Headley said he used GPS during his visits to Mumbai so that he could store the location of the targets as well locations in the Arabian Sea.
“I handed over all the photographs, videos and the GPS to Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa after I returned to Pakistan,” he said during his examination by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.
During his deposition, he also said that LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are all allies 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 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.”
Headley also said that he was asked by Pakistan’s ISI to recruit Indian armymen to spy for them.
He said that the LeT group as a whole was responsible for the terror attacks in India, and it can be speculated that all orders came from its top commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
“I met Major Iqbal of ISI in Lahore in early 2006. He asked me to gather military intelligence from India and also try to recruit someone from the Indian military to spy. I told Major Iqbal that I would do as he asked.”
“I cannot tell this court who specifically from LeT instructed to conduct terror acts in India. The group as a whole was responsible. We can, however, speculate that since Zaki-ur-Rehman was the head of operations of LeT, and hence all orders would have logically come from him,” he told the court.
Headley further said that he had “discussed with LeT leaders Hafiz ‘sahab’ and Zaki-ur-Rehman ‘sahab’ that it would be a good idea to take the US govt to court to challenge its decision to designate LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation and banning it.”
“Hafiz said it was a good idea but then did not say anything more on it. Zaki thought it will be a long process and many agencies of the Pakistani government like the ISI will have to be involved,” said Headley, while appearing from an undisclosed location via video conferencing.
Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks, also revealed that his wife had complained to police about his links with LeT.
“In December 2007, my wife Faiza lodged a complaint with the Racecourse police in Lahore alleging that I had duped her of money.
“In January 2008, she complained to the US Embassy in Islamabad that I was involved in terrorist activities and was closely associated with LeT,” he said.
“Later when I asked her about this complaint, she told me that the “US Embassy officials seemed to have believed her,” he said.
In his first deposition yesterday, Headley had told the court that Pakistani terrorists attempted to attack Mumbai twice before the 26/11 strikes in Mumbai that killed 166 people but failed both times.
Describing himself as a “true follower of LeT”, Headley had also admitted during his examination by Nikam that he joined the ranks of LeT after getting “influenced and motivated” by the speeches of terrorist outfit’s founder Hafiz Saeed.