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Airport questioning trapped David Headley

world Updated: Dec 09, 2009 20:06 IST

Dodgy answers to questions by an airport inspector about his overseas travels that he could not back with documentary proof put Pakistani American David Headley, alias Daood Gilani, who has been charged with helping to plan the Mumbai terror assault, on the primary scanner of US investigators, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Federal authorities, already suspicious of Headley, used his return to the US in August as an opportunity, the US daily said citing unnamed officials. A border inspector asked Headley about his overseas travel, according to court records and people familiar with the case, it said.

Headley said he was working for a company called First World Immigration Service. First World is a business that allegedly provided Headley with cover as he travelled to scout terrorist targets for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group responsible for the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, according to the federal charges.

Agents searched Headley's luggage and found it "contained no papers or other documents relating to such a business", the Journal said citing court documents. They also searched tax records and found no record of income paid to Headley by the company, court records show.

US officials cited by the Journal said the questioning at the airport gave a significant boost to the investigation.

Headley was returning to the US from a trip to Denmark in which he was scouting potential targets, authorities alleged. He is also being charged with planning an armed assault on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Authorities said little more about the airport interview, including where it happened or why they had become suspicious of Headley, the Journal said. But court records showed that federal surveillance of Headley, who is an American, accelerated afterward.

Headley has been charged in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark and provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

He has also been charged on six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India.

Ten Pakistani terrorists had sneaked into Mumbai Nov 26 and for the next 60 hours let loose mayhem that claimed 166 lives and injured 244 people.