Headley's people


The case of David Coleman Headley, the Lashkar-e-Toiba operative who was arrested in the US by the FBI, has got curiouser and curiouser ever since he was held, with revelations about the reach of the terrorist organisation, the long planning that has gone into its actions and the failure of counter-terrorism bodies to detect and pre-empt its plans. The FBI made a major breakthrough with his arrest, though there are questions about how he escaped the strict vigil and surveillance in the US for years. It is even suggested that in the murky world of intelligence and counter-intelligence he may even have been useful to the US once. But the matter of practical value for both India and the US now is that he had an important role in planning the Mumbai terrorist outrage of last November, in which the US also has a direct interest because six of its citizens were killed in the attack. He is now facing trial in Chicago on many charges.

American prosecutors have found that the Mumbai attack plan was conceived many years before it was implemented. Headley lived in Mumbai for two years, set up an office there, did reconnaissance for two years, passed on videotapes and other information to Pakistani handlers and visited that country many times. He obtained his visa from the Indian consulate in Chicago, which hardly checked his antecedents, though there was a tell-tale change of name from Daood Gilani to David Headley and he supplied many incorrect details about himself which went unverified. There cannot be few other testimonials to the failure and inefficiency of Indian intelligence and immigration authorities.

The revelations in Chicago have also shed more light on the Pakistani role in the Mumbai attack. Headley was reporting to a retired Pakistani army officer who took him to the terrorist hotspots in the country to plan another attack in Denmark. The involvement of another Pakistani, identified as ‘A’, has also come to light. Headley was arrested when he was planning another Mumbai-type attack in India. His disclosures strengthen the need for more efforts and co-operation by Pakistan in bringing those responsible for the Mumbai outrage to justice. These have not been forthcoming, with an almost farcical trial going on in that country. More importantly, the disclosures are a wake-up call for India to raise its vigil and plug the loopholes in its security system.

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