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'Headley was no low-level operative'

world Updated: Dec 17, 2009 09:54 IST

IANS
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The extensive use of terrorist tradecraft by Pakistani American terror suspect David Headley makes it evident that he "was not merely a low-level cannon fodder-type operative", according to US strategic think tank Stratfor.

The December 7 indictment of Headley, charged with scouting targets for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, shows that he reportedly attended Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT) training camps in Pakistan in February and August of 2002 and in April, August and December of 2003.

"This indicates that Headley progressed far beyond basic militant training, and it is likely that he was taught during his later training sessions the tradecraft required to conduct preoperational surveillance for terrorist attacks and to participate in the operational planning for such attacks," Stratfor said.

"One element of terrorist tradecraft that was evident in the indictment and the October 11 criminal complaint is Headley's careful use of language and of multiple methods of communications, including the use of cell phones and using long-distance calling cards, e-mail communication (using a variety of accounts) and face-to-face briefings," the global intelligence company said.

According to the December 7 indictment to conduct surveillance for the Mumbai attacks, Headley made five extended trips to Mumbai: one in September 2006, two in February and September of 2007 and two in April and July of 2008.

Referring to Headley's alleged work as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and FBI informant, Stratfor said: "Given the demonstrated - and considerable - nexus between heroin trafficking and terrorism funding for the jihadist groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, such a crossover of an informant from narcotics to terrorism is no surprise."

If Headley were reporting to the FBI, it could also explain the very specific warnings that the US government gave to the government of India about plans to attack hotels in Mumbai in Sep 2008, it said.

Following the warning, the government of India initially increased security measures at these sites, but the measures were dropped before the attacks were launched in Nov 2008.

Stratfor said at present, it is very difficult to ascertain if Headley was a double agent who was really reporting to LeT and HUJI the entire time he was ostensibly working for the US government, or if he was merely a rogue informant who was playing both ends against the middle for his own personal benefit.

Noting that such rogue sources have been seen in jihadist cases before, Stratfor said: "If Headley was either a double agent or a rogue source, there may be some significant blowback for the US government as further revelations are made about the case."