David Headley Confirms Hafiz Saeed, ISI Role in Mumbai Terror Attacks

Mumbai: India is likely to give Pakistan fresh evidence about the involvement of ISI officers in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack after Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley’s deposition before a Mumbai court via video-link from the United States today.

India has given several dossiers to Pakistan incorporating evidence about the involvement of ISI officers, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed, LeT commander Zaki-ur- Rehman Lakhvi besides others.

David Coleman Headley. Credit: PBS

David Coleman Headley. Credit: PBS

“There has been no action against any one of them. Headley’s deposition before the court again established that serving ISI officers, Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi were deeply involved in the conspiracy. We will provide all this fresh evidence to Pakistan for action,” a senior government official said.

India is also expected to ask the US to act on Saeed, against whom a $10 million reward was announced for information leading to his capture, following Headley’s disclosure.

Headley is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks. Among the 166 victims of the attack, four were American nationals.

“Headley’s deposition before the court has established that Hafiz Saeed was involved in the Mumbai terror attack. Headley is now in American custody, so the US must take cognisance of his statement and take action against Hafiz Saeed,” the official said.

Headley told the court through video conferencing that he was trained by the LeT in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Abbottabad under the guidance of LeT founder “Hafiz Saeed sahab”, whose picture he identified in the court, as also its commander, Lakhvi.

He said that he was in touch with three officers of Pakistan’s ISI – identified as Major Ali, Major Iqbal and Major Abdul Rehman Pasha.

Headley told the court that he had changed his name from Dawood Gilani after instructions from LeT commanders, including Lakhvi, and ISI officials to carry out a recce in India for an attack, an “adventurous” task for him.

Headley reportedly visited India many times between 2006 and 2008, drew maps, took video footage and scouted several targets for the attacks including the Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel and Nariman House. His recce provided vital information for the 10 LeT attackers and their handlers in the attack.

The 10 terrorists, who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, had attempted to carry out the strike twice earlier but could not execute the plan, Headley disclosed today.

“LeT operative Sajid Mir (Headley’s main contact man in LeT) told me that two earlier attempts to attack Mumbai had failed,” Headley told Special Judge GA Sanap during a deposition that lasted nearly five-and-a-half-hours.

He said the first attempt was made in September 2008 but it failed as the boat hit some rocks and the terrorists lost all their arms and ammunition in the sea.

“The boat, which started from outside Karachi, disintegrated and people on it had their life jackets on and they came to the shore, while the second attempt was made a month later (in October),” Headley told the court.

Headley said he joined the LeT after being “influenced” by Saeed and took his first “course” – the ‘Daura-e-aam’ – with them in 2002 at Muzaffarabad.

He said he changed his name in 2006 so that he could travel to Mumbai with an American identity and set up a business in India so he could live here.

Headley said he had applied for a multiple-entry business visa with the Indian embassy so that he did not have to apply for an Indian visa repeatedly.

“My office was established in Mumbai so that I could take cover in India,” Headley told the court, adding he wanted the cover so that his real identity would not be known.

He said he knew Major Iqbal of the ISI and had met him in Lahore after one Major Ali (also from the ISI) introduced him.

The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai burns during the 26/11 terrorist attack, 2008 Credit: YouTube video grab

The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai burns during the 26/11 terrorist attack, 2008 Credit: YouTube video grab

Special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who examined Headley said, “I am absolutely satisfied with what Headley had revealed in today’s deposition. Headley has given certain sensational revelations during his deposition. He confirmed that he met Hafiz Saeed and he identified his picture as well.”

He said, “He (Headley) revealed a lot about Major Iqbal and Major Ali, both of them were there in ISI. It was Major Iqbal who trained him and he also unravelled (sic) [the] names of [a] few LeT trainers before the court.”

Nikam said Headley had “joined a leadership course where both Sayeed and Lakhvi used to come and give speeches against India. He completed his education from Hasan Abdal Cadet College in Pakistan but left for America at the age of 17.”

Meanwhile, Headley’s lawyer’s, Mahesh Jethmalani, said he has confessed that he had joined the LeT after being influenced by Saeed.

The deposition of Headley assumes significance as it may help unravel the conspiracy behind the brazen terror strike, which left 166 dead and 309 injured.

The court had on December 10, 2015, made Headley an approver in the case and directed him to depose before it on February 8. He had then told Sanap that he was “ready to depose” if granted a pardon.