Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley told a Mumbai court on Tuesday that spy agency ISI provides support to the terrorist group that carried out the deadly 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008, strengthening India’s allegations of the Pakistani establishment backing extremists.
The US citizen of Pakistani descent said he too worked for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency that provided “financial, moral and military support to the LeT”, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told reporters on the second day of Headley’s deposition via video link.
Headley, who was jailed for 35 years in 2013 by a US court for plotting the strike, said the ISI provides support not just to the LeT, but also other terrorist organisations such as the Hizbul Mujahideen as well as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is suspected to have carried out last month’s attack on Punjab’s Pathankot airbase.
“I have no direct knowledge, but it is my assessment that the terrorist organisations in Pakistan and the intelligence agency coordinate with each other,” he told additional sessions judge GA Sanap, clarifying that his assessment was based on what he observed in Pakistan and what he heard from people around him back there.
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The 56-year-old said ISI officer Brigadier Riyaz was the handler of LeT leader and 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a day after he told the court that he was a “true follower” of the terrorist group. When shown a photograph of Lakhvi, Headley identified him.
The Mumbai attacks that lasted three days and left 166 people dead have been a consistent source of acrimony between India and Pakistan as New Delhi has called for Islamabad to bring the masterminds to justice.
Pakistan’s government has technically banned the LeT but a number of its leaders, including Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi, remain free.
Replying to a question from Nikam, Headley said he was not being paid by the LeT and he was earning handsome amounts from his “businesses” in the US while he had invested in real estate in the UAE.
He also said the LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are all part of the United Jihad Council based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
(With inputs from agencies)