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FBI knew Headley had LeT links in 2005

Federal investigators in the US had known of David Coleman Headley's training trips to Pakistan at least three years before the November 26 attacks in Mumbai on targets identified by him. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: Oct 17, 2010 00:57 IST
Yashwant Raj

Federal investigators in the US had known of David Coleman Headley's training trips to Pakistan at least three years before the November 26 attacks in Mumbai on targets identified and receed by him.

This information has not yet been shared by US investigators with India, which has been granted access to Headley and information given by him about the Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed. Specific information about Headley's trips were passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigations by Headley's wife during investigations into her complaint of domestic violence against him in 2005.

In at least three interviews, Headley's wife told FBI investigators in New York of his trips to Pakistan to train with the Lashkar-i-Tayyeba, said a report by ProPublica, a non-profit US news entity, on Friday.

Headley and his wife lived in New York then; he ran video stores owned by his family in Manhattan.

The ProPublica report quoted federal sources to say the wife -- who was not named for her safety -- told the FBI that Headley had shopped around for night vision goggles and other equipment.

The wife also told agents that Headley had talked about working as a paid U.S. informant while he was training with the Lashkar in Pakistan, ProPublica said quoting a person close to the case.

Headley was arrested for domestic violence, but no charges were pressed against him. His next arrest came 11 months after the Mumbai attacks on a tip passed on to US asuthorities by British intelligence. Headley was arrested in October with an accomplaice Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen. He pleaded guilty in a bargain deal with the authorites that prevents his extradiction to any other country (read India).

Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani descent, has since pleaded guilty to having a hand in the Mumbai shootings and planning an attack on a Danish newspaper for carrying a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad.

What if the FBI had acted on these tips? Or it did? Did it have anything to do with the fact that Headley was an agent of the Drugs Enforcement Agency? Or was it simply another missed opportunity?

But this information was never shared with India. In fact, the US had initially dithered giving Indian investigators access to Headley causing a minor diplomatic rift. In fact, India wanted to try Headley.

Evenutally India was given access, and investigators were able to talk to him. But his extradiction is out of the question as Headley wanted it ruled out in the plea bargain entered by him, and granted. India was givern access to him in June 2010 -- eight months after is arrest -- with seven days of access given to a team of investigators from the National Investigating Agency, set up after the Mumbai attacks to deal with terrorism.

India, in contrast, had given US -- because of the death of six Americans in the attack -- almost immediate access to Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman arrested for the attacks.

This had rankled Indian authorities. And now, another Headley letdown.