Pakistani-American terror suspect David Headley's confession about his involvement in the Mumbai terror showed in clear contours the close relationship between Al Qaeda and the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to a former CIA analyst.
Headley's revelations around the European cell were particularly disturbing, Bruce Riedel, who was a member of the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and is now at the Brookings Institution was quoted as saying by the New York Times on Friday.
They showed that "Al Qaeda still has a significant operational infrastructure somewhere in Europe," he said.
Details of Headley's activities, contained in his plea agreement with US authorities, "raise troubling questions about how an American citizen could travel for so long undetected from his home base in Chicago to well-established terrorist training camps in Pakistan," the Times said in a report from Islamabad.
Charged with helping plan the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Headley, 49, moved effortlessly between the United States, Pakistan and India for nearly seven years, training at a militant camp in Pakistan on five occasions, according to the plea agreement.
Headley started his career as a militant scout with LeT, a terrorist group established decades ago with the help of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies.
Lashkar was supposed to have been outlawed in Pakistan in 2002, but it remains active behind the veil of a public charity in Pakistan and, according to Headley's plea, continued to be assisted by former Pakistani military officials in recent years.
The plea names a retired Pakistani military officer, Col. Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, known as Pasha, as Headley's main contact with Lashkar. Earlier prosecution documents said that Colonel Syed was arrested last year in Pakistan on unspecified charges, but then released.
In early 2009 Colonel Syed introduced Headley to Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, a Qaeda operative in North Waziristan, according to the document.
The visit in February 2009 may finally have put Headley on the radar of the American authorities, who started tracking him in the late spring of last year, Riedel was quoted as saying.
Headley's plea agreement with the government was not his first. After being sentenced for drug trafficking in the 1990s, he served as an informant in Pakistan for the Drug Enforcement Agency as part of a deal for a lighter sentence, the US daily said.
He was in Pakistan for the drug agency from the late 1990s until at least 2001. By 2002, he was training with Lashkar, raising the possibility that he had made contact with the militants while still working for the drug agency, the Times suggested.