Mumbai attack: In the first deposition on a terror act from foreign soil, Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Headley today told a court here via video-link that Pakistani terrorists attempted to attack Mumbai twice before the 26/11 strikes that killed 166 people but failed both times.
In his deposition which began at 7 AM, David Headley said that he was a “true follower of LeT” and came to India eight times – 7 before the terror attack on November 26, 2008 and once after that.
Headley, who was made an approver in the 26/11 attack case, said that his main contact in LeT was Sajid Mir, also an accused in the case.
He told the court that LeT made two unsuccessful attempts to carry out terror attacks before finally striking in November 2008, once in September and another in October.
David Headley said that he joined LeT after being “influenced” by its head Hafeez Saeed and took his first “course” with them in 2002 at Muzaffarabad.
David Headley, who is currently serving 35 years prison sentence in the US for his role in the terror attacks, also said he changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006 so that he could enter India and set up some business.
“I applied for change in name on February 5, 2006 in Philadelphia. I changed my name to David Headley to get a new passport under that name. I wanted a new passport so that I could enter India with an American identity.
“After I got a new passport I disclosed it to my colleagues in LeT of which one of them was Sajid Mir, the person with whom I was dealing with. The objective for coming to India was to set up an office/business so that I can live in India. Before the first visit, Sajid Mir gave me instructions to make a general video of Mumbai,” David Headley told the court here.
Headley also said that in his Indian visa application he had furnished all “wrong” information “to protect his cover”.
He 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 reconnaissance provided vital information for the 10 LeT terrorists and their handlers, who launched the attack.
Speaking to reporters, Headley’s lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani said has “he (David Headley) has confirmed that he joined LeT after being influenced by Hafeez Saeed. He told the court that two unsuccessful attempts to carry out terror attacks were also made before 26/11″. He has not explained the role of LeT in attacks”.
The court is currently trying key plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who is facing trial for his alleged role in the terror attacks, which held the city to ransom for three days.
The deposition of David Headley, assumes significance as it may unravel the conspiracy behind the brazen terror strike, which left 166 people dead.
The court had on December 10, 2015, made David Headley an approver in the case and directed him to depose before the court on February 8.
He had then told Special Judge GA Sanap that he was “ready to depose” if granted pardon.
Judge Sanap had then made Headley an approver, subject to certain conditions and granted him pardon.
Last year, the Mumbai Police had on October 8 moved an application before the court saying that Headley deserves to be tried by this (Mumbai) court together with 26/11 key plotter Abu Jundal in the case as both of them are conspirators and abettors behind the dastardly act.
In the application, the Mumbai Police said that from the judgement passed by the US court against Headley, it was clear that he was a member of LeT and he had played an active role in the criminal conspiracy in the terror attack.
The application also said that Headley had entered into a plea agreement with US in 2010 and thereby willingly and voluntarily agreed that he had conspired.
It is evident, the police had said, that Headley has committed the offences of conspiring with LeT for committing illegal acts in India; waging war against the government of India and offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
He has also been accused of intentionally aiding and abetting the LeT in Pakistan for committing illegal acts in Mumbai, mischief by fire with intent to destroy Hotel Taj, Oberoi and Nariman House, offences under Explosives Act and Explosives Substances Act as also under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
“This is for the first time in the Indian legal history that a ‘foreign terrorist’ will appear before an Indian court and testify,” Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had said yesterday.