In more chilling testimony, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley today said al-Qaeda was in touch with him to attack Delhi’s National Defence College and unravelled the plot by LeT and ISI to target Mumbai airport, BARC and the Naval air station here.
Headley also told Special Judge G A Sanap via video-link from the US that he attempted to develop close relations with a Shiv Sena member as he thought Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), a Pakistan-based terror outfit, would be interested in future to either attack the Shiv Sena Bhawan here or assassinate its head (late Bal Thackeray).
Continuing his deposition for the fourth day, Headley claimed he discouraged the LeT about Naval air station and Siddhivinayak temple as targets for the attack as they were heavily guarded.
Headley told the court here that his handlers in Pakistan spy agency ISI and LeT wanted to target Mumbai airport and Naval air station during the terror attack in November 2008.
“Major Iqbal expressed disapproval of certain areas I had recced as targets. I felt that Major Iqbal was unhappy because Mumbai airport was not selected and included as one of the targets for the 26/11 attack,” he said.
Headley testified in detail on how al-Qaeda was also interested in carrying out attacks in India after 26/11 strike.
“After the 26/11 terror attack I met Ilyas Kashmiri (of al-Qaeda) in February 2009 and he asked me to visit India again as they were also interested in carrying out terrorist activities in India. He mentioned few places like the NDC (National Defence College) which was their primary target,” he said.
He also said NDC was a high-value target as it housed senior military officers, from Brigadier to General rank.
“Abdul Rehman Pasha (Al-Qaeda member) said that if this attack is successful then we would be able to kill more Brigadiers and Generals than any killed in the wars between India and Pakistan in the past,” said the 55-year-old, who recently turned approver in the 26/11 terror attacks case.
He told the court that as per Kashmiri’s orders, he also visited the Chabad houses located in Pushkar, Goa and Pune as they were secondary targets of the terror outfit.
He said he had videographed BARC at Trombay in Mumbai in July 2008 and that LeT had asked him to recruit some employee of BARC who would work for ISI.
“I also visited and videographed BARC. Major Iqbal told me that in some future date I should recruit some employee of BARC who would give us classified information and would be ready to work for the ISI,” he said, adding that he had handed over the video to Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal.
Headley also testified on his interaction with a Shiv Sena member.
“I met Rajaram Rege (PRO of Uddhav Thackeray) inside Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar. I was interested in accessing the building at that time and I attempted to develop closer relations with Rege as I thought the LeT would be interested in future to attack the Sena Bhavan or assassinate its head,” Headley told the court. Headley also identified the recently executed lone 26/11 convict, Ajmal Kasab, when he was shown a photograph of him.
“This is Ajmal Kasab Rehmatullah Aliah,” Headley told the court.
When he was again asked to spell out the full name of Kasab, he said, “His name is only Ajmal Kasab but Rehmatullah Aliah means god bless him or god forgive him,” and added that after Kasab was captured, Sajid Mir and everybody in LeT were saddened.
In further disclosures, he said that after he had conducted a reconnaissance of Mumbai, he had several meetings in Pakistan with LeT leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Sajid Mir, Abu Kahfa and Abdul Rehman Pasha and Major Iqbal.
Headley revealed that during his last visit to Mumbai in July 2008, prior to the 26/11 attacks, he had surveyed and videographed the Chabad House in south Mumbai.
“I don’t know who was staying there. Sajid Mir and Pasha asked me to survey this place and said that it was an international location as it had Jewish and Israeli people,” he said.
Headley said he discouraged the LeT about Naval air station and Siddhivinayak temple as targets for the attack.
“I discouraged them (LeT) about Naval air station and Siddhivinayak temple as targets as then all the ten attackers would have had to concentrate on one target only,” he said.
Continuing to spill beans on the brazen terror attack, he said “for the 26/11 terror attack, LeT handler Sajid Mir and Abu Kahfa, on instructions from Zaki Sahab, decided to go with the stronghold option which means stay put in the place of the target and keep on fighting.”
“The second option that was discussed was egress option which means leave the place of target and go to India occupied Kashmir and continue fighting with the troops there,” he said.
“Kahfa told me that the egress option was discarded as if it was in the mind of the person (attacker) that he has to leave then he will not fight well,” Headley further said. Headley further disclosed that during his last visit to Mumbai in July 2008, he had also gone to Siddhivinayak temple and made a video of it.
“I purchased the red and yellow wrist bands…I forget the name of it. I thought that the ten youths could wear it as a cover so that people would think they were Indians.
“Nobody asked me to do so. I saw a man selling it outside the temple, so the thought occurred to me. After I returned to Pakistan, I gave those wrist bands to Sajid Mir and explained to him that practising Hindus in India wear this and hence, it would be a good idea if the ten gentlemen (attackers) also wear it as it would look like they are Hindus,” he said.
Headley told the court that Sajid Mir had got the ten attackers Indian cellphones so that they could guide them during the terror attack.
“I tested one of the phones. Sajid Mir asked me to go to Wagah border if the signal was working in the phone. I did so and informed Sajid Mir that the signals were working,” he said.
When asked about the control room in Karachi from where the LeT handlers were giving instructions to the ten attackers during the terror attack, he said he “never visited the control room and did not meet any other handler, apart from Sajid Mir, Abu Kahfa and Abu-al-Kama”.
He told the court that he had finalised Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade as a landing site for the ten attackers, as the area is covered with shanties and hutments from the main road, and hence he thought it would give tactical advantage to the terrorists.
Headley said that LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman wanted to finalise Gateway of India as the landing site for the 10 terrorists as it was very close to the Taj hotel.
“I, however, said it was not a good idea as the attackers would be required to go through Gateway of India by crossing naval installation and they could be detected. Zaki Sahab and others agreed to my suggestion,” he said. “When Zaki Sahab saw the targets I had selected, he said this was very important and has to be done properly. Zaki Sahab said surveillance for the attacks should be done properly. He said this would give a chance to take revenge for all the bomb blasts India had done in the past in Pakistan. Zaki Sahab wished me good luck,” Headley said.
He told the court that the idea to divide the ten terrorists in different groups was also discussed at one of the meetings in Pakistan.
He also revealed that he had informed his first wife Shazia about the 26/11 attack. After the incident, Shazia sent him an email congratulating him, he said.
“On November 28, 2008, Shazia sent me an e-mail ‘Congrats on your graduation, the ceremony was really great’. Two days later I responded saying, ‘Thank you Jaanu, I studied hard to get grades,” he said.
Headley also said that during his last visit, he had purchased five books from a shop at the Taj Hotel.
“One of the books was ‘Indian Army Vision 2020’. I was interested to know the progress of the Indian Army in the future,” he said.
When Judge Sanap asked Headley why he had purchased the other four books, he said, “The other books were pictorial and beautiful, hence I purchased them. There is nothing sinister about those books. The first book was sinister.”
Headley also told the court that six months before the attack he visited US. However he could not meet Tahawwur Rana (Headley’s business partner).
“But I spoke with him on the phone. I said that I had gone to India and selected landing sites,” he said.
Headley is serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed and 309 injured.