Pakistan officer shrugs off supposed ISI link to Mumbai attacks

Pakistan officer shrugs off supposed ISI link to Mumbai attacks

Headley, a Pakistani-American, pleaded guilty last year to being a co-conspirator in the Mumbai attacks, in which 10 militants from the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed 166 people, including six Americans.

Headley is a prosecution witness at the Chicago trial of businessman Tahawwur Rana, a childhood friend who is accused of providing a front for Headley's surveillance work in India.

Headley, 50, said he was introduced to a retired Pakistani military officer at a mosque, and reported regularly to his LeT handlers and an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer called "Major Iqbal."

"These groups operated under the umbrella of ISI ... they coordinated with ISI," Headley said on Tuesday.

Headley's allegations are a source of indignation in Pakistan, which sees the trial as making a scapegoat of the ISI, already facing criticism for its failure to find al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on its own territory and to stop a U.S. raid to kill him.

"I have nothing to say on this. This is his opinion, whatever he's saying," a senior Pakistani intelligence official who requested anonymity. "Major Iqbal," he said. "The name itself means nothing. How many Iqbals are there in the Pakistan Army or ISI? And if he is what he's quoted to be, do you think he would have given his true name?"

Headley is testifying against Tahawwur Rana, 50, who is accused of using his immigration services firm to provide a cover story for Headley's surveillance work and to be a conduit for communication with militants.

Three federal lawsuits filed in Brooklyn, New York, by the families of Mumbai attack victims allege that ISI's director-general, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, and other agency operatives were involved with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an anti-India militant group, in planning and orchestrating the attacks.

Pasha has been subpoenaed and Pakistan's government has said it will "strongly contest" the case.

Rana's trial comes at a time of growing discord in the United States about Pakistan's commitment to fight terrorism after the United States killed bin Laden in a compound near the Pakistani capital.

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