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Headley unravels 26/11 Mumbai attack plot

What the Lashkar agent's interrogation revealed about the Mumbai attack. Headley did so and saw footage of carnage in Mumbai. He played a central role in preparing the operation. Over the previous two years, he had made nine trips to India to scout targets. HT and agencies report.

delhi Updated: Oct 20, 2010 01:37 IST

What the Lashkar agent's interrogation revealed about the Mumbai attack.

Headley and ISI Central to 26/11

Late in the evening of 26 November 2008, David Headley, a 48-year-old American living in Lahore, received a text from a man he knew as Sajjid, a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba militant. “Turn on the television,” it said.

Headley did so and saw footage of carnage in Mumbai. He played a central role in preparing the operation. Over the previous two years, he had made nine trips to India to scout targets.

On his return to Pakistan he had met his militant associates and handed them a memory stick with images of the targets.

Even before meeting Lashkar commanders, Headley had sat down with “Major Iqbal”, an officer in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Nor was this the first meeting with the man he called his handler. When on a mission, he usually recorded images of potential targets on two memory sticks, one for Lashkar, the other for the ISI.

Lashkar's divisions drove it to attack

Headley's testimony suggests that the attacks grew out of the pressure on commanders of Lashkar-e-Taiba to wage a wider war against the west.

Since 2005, Headley says, splinter groups had been breaking away from the group. These dissidents were close to radical groups such as Al Qaeda or those that were to become the Pakistani Taliban.

The picture that emerges from Headley is of a chaotic and complex relationship between the ISI and the militants, with the former not always fully aware of developments. Headley revealed Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, ISI director general, met Lakhvi after the attacks in an attempt to “understand” the operation, implying that top level officers were not fully informed.

Plan kept growing

By September 2007, Headley's instructions from “Sajjid”, his immediate handler in Lashkar, were more precise, but the operation still involved only one or two militants who would try to make their escape after their attack, Headley said.

By the spring of 2008, the plan involved “multiple locations and multiple attackers” who would be sent by sea.

On the first attempt, the boat carrying the attackers to Mumbai foundered. On the second, it were nearly discovered by Indian coastguards. On the third, the attackers reached Mumbai. Hours later, Headley received the text telling him to turn on the TV.