26/11 case: Allegations of ISI involvement to surface at trial

26/11 case: Allegations of ISI involvement to surface at trial

Noting that federal prosecutors last week quietly charged a suspected ISI major with helping to plot the murder of six Americans in Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, eminent investigative journalist Sebastian Rotella wrote in 'The Washington Post' that the indictment has explosive implications because the US and Pakistan are struggling to preserve their fragile relationship.

Observing that ISI has long been suspected of secretly aiding terrorist groups while serving as a US ally in the fight against terror, the Post said the discovery that bin Laden spent years in a fortress-like compound surrounded by military facilities in Abbottabad has heightened those suspicions and reinforced the accusations that the Pakistani spy agency was involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

"It's very, very troubling," Congressman Frank Wolf, Chairman of the House Appropriations sub-committee that oversees funding of the Justice Department, was quoted as saying by the daily. "Keep in mind that we've given billions of dollars to the Pakistani government."

"In light of what's taken place with bin Laden, the whole issue raises serious problems and questions."

While the 33-page indictment in the Mumbai attacks names the suspect only as "Major Iqbal" and does not mention the ISI, Iqbal's affiliation to the spy agency has been detailed in US and Indian case files.

"The first public airing of the ISI's alleged involvement in the Mumbai attack will begin on May 16 with the trial of (Pakistani-Canadian) Tahawwur (Hussain) Rana, owner of a Chicago immigration consulting firm," the article said.

Rana was arrested in 2009 and charged with material support to terrorism in the same case in which four suspects were indicted last week.

"The star witness will be David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman-turned-militant who has pleaded guilty to scouting targets in India and Denmark. Rana allegedly helped Headley use his firm as a cover for reconnaissance," the report said.
Headley trained in LeT camps before being recruited in 2006 by an ISI officer, Major Samir Ali, who referred him to Iqbal in Lahore, it said.

Iqbal became Headley's handler, introducing him to a "Lt Col Shah" and giving him months of spy training before deploying him to India, according to the Indian report, which officials say repeats Headley's confessions to the FBI.

Headley, the federal prosecutors said, was associated with LeT and attended its training camps in Pakistan which began in or around February 2002, August 2002, April 2003, August 2003 and December 2003.

Headley assisted senior LeT men in planning and preparing for terrorist attacks.
Currently languishing in a Chicago jail, Headley has bargained with the US authorities that in exchange for his guilty plea he would not be extradited to India or face death penalty.

It was part of the conspiracy that in or about late 2005, defendants Sajid Mir and Abu Qahafa, and LeT 'Member D' advised Headley that he would be traveling to India to perform surveillance of potential targets for attack by LeT, and recommended that he take steps to conceal his association with Pakistan and his Muslim religion during his travels in India.

Federal prosecutors said that in February 2006, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Headley changed his given name of "Daood Gilani" to "David Coleman Headley" in order to facilitate his activities on behalf of LeT by enabling him to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani.

In the spring of 2006, Sajid Mir and Lashkar Member D discussed with Headley the idea that Headley could open an immigration office in Mumbai as a cover for his surveillance activities in India, federal prosecutors said.

Further in June 2006, Headley travelled to Chicago, Illinois, and advised Tahawwur Hussain Rana of his assignment to perform surveillance for potential targets in India, and obtained Rana's approval for opening a First World office in Mumbai as cover for these activities.

Rana directed an individual associated with First World to prepare documents to support Headley's cover story with respect to the opening of a First World office in Mumbai, and advised Headley regarding how to obtain a visa for travel to India.