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Headley was an ace double agent, Rana tells interrogators

world Updated: Jun 08, 2011 02:22 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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David Coleman Headley, the man who set up the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai, was an ace double agent. While in Pakistan he assiduously cultivated the ISI, without telling his Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) handlers about it.

“Lashkar doesn’t know probably… that he’s (Headley) with (ISI), but ISI knows that he’s with (LeT),” Tahawwur Rana, the Canadian on trial in Chicago for 26/11, told his interrogators in tapes released on Monday.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers on Tuesday presented their closing arguments, and it’s over to the jury now.
Headley had set up a Mumbai branch of Rana’s First World Immigration service as a cover for his many visits to India to scout targets and landing points for a Lashkar team that killed 164 people over two days in November 2008.

Headley had in his own statement in the trial court, where he deposed as a state witness (he has pleaded guilty in a deal), and during questioning by Indian investigators in June 2010, admitted to be working for a “Major Iqbal” of the ISI.

While Rana did not go into details of Headley’s double agent act, the man who surveyed the Mumbai targets has spoken about briefing Major Iqbal on returning from every one of his visits to India, before contacting his Lashkar handlers.

But this was not Headley’s only double agent act. He was also working for the US Drug and Enforcement Agency before he is said to have gone rogue, and crossed over to the terrorists — his original brief was to infiltrate Al Qaeda.

Headley nearly did achieve that objective. He was working with Ilyas Kashmiri, who was considered al Qaeda’s Pakistan boss, on a plan to attack the Danish newspaper that had printed a cartoon mocking Prophet Muhammad.

Headley was arrested in 2009, and Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack last week.

The transcript clearly demonstrates once again ISI’s hand in the attack. Rana was in touch with Major Iqbal, a fact he tried to leverage to claim immunity from prosecution, saying he was acting on behalf of the government of Pakistan.

The court, of course, had dismissed that claim.

In the transcripts and the video tapes, Rana spoke about a deal Headley was trying to cut with Major Iqbal, facilitating Rana’s return to Pakistan, from where he had fled after leaving the navy, as a deserter.

Rana would be arrested and put on trial on return.

“If I plead guilty, that I made a mistake they w ill dismiss that and then they might say okay, get out of here and you’re fine,” Rana told his interrogators in halting, unclear and often ungrammatical English.