Mumbai attack: Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley today told a special court here that young college girl Ishrat Jahan – who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004 in Gujarat – was an operative of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT).
Testifying via video-link from the US, Headley picked up the name of the 19-year-old Mumbra girl from three names when quizzed by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam about a “botched-up operation” mentioned to him (Headley) by LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.
Headley told the court that Lakhvi had mentioned to him about a “botched-up operation” conducted in India by another LeT operative Muzammil Butt where a female member of the terror outfit was killed.
Prodded by Nikam for details about the operation, Headley said, “There was a female wing in LeT which was headed by one Abu Aiman’s mother. Zaki sahab(Zaki-Ur-Rehman) told me about Butt’s botched up operation in India. It was some shootout with the police.
“I don’t know which part in India. But there was one female who was killed in the shootout. I think she was an Indian national and not a Pakistani but was a LeT operative.”
After today’s hearing, Nikam claimed before reporters that Headley had stated during the testimony he had heard Lakhvi telling Butt that an “operation” in Gujarat had failed because of a female suicide bomber. However, Headley had said he does not remember the name of any female suicide bomber.
“I don’t know any female suicide bomber in LeT. I cannot name any suicide bomber in LeT,” Headley told the court when he was asked by the prosecutor about suicide bombers.
In his media interaction, Nikam said he named in the court three “women suicide bombers” of the LeT for Headley to pick.
“I named three women suicide bombers associated with the LeT–Noor Jahan Begum, Ishrat Jahan, Mumtaz Begum. When he heard the three, he said that he had heard the name of Ishrat Jahan and that she was killed in a police encounter.”
Nikam’s claim was questioned by Ishrat’s family lawyer Vrinda Grover, who maintained that Headley in his testimony had said he only heard about a “botched-up” operation and that he did not know of any female sucide bomber.
Asserting that Ishrat had no terror links, Grover said Headley’s subsequent statement that he had heard the name of Ishrat Jahan after Nikam gave a “multiple choice question” cannot be treated as evidence. “It is not evidence. It is all mockery pointing to a conspiracy. There may be politics,” she said, adding that certain questions have been put to Headley by the prosecutor which had nothing to do with the 26/11 case.
Ishrat’s family members also questioned the veracity of Headley’s claims. “Attempts were made to link Ishrat’s name with terror from Headley’s testimony,” her uncle Rauf Lala said.
Four persons–Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Joha–were killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The Ahmedabad crime branch had then claimed that those killed in the encounter were LeT terrorists and had landed in Gujarat to kill the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.