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US charges two suspects with plotting attacks in Denmark

world Updated: Oct 27, 2009 22:18 IST
US authorities

US authorities charged two men for plotting terror attacks abroad, including on the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005, the Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The men, who live in the Chicago area, were identified as David Coleman Headley, 49, a US citizen, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, a native of Pakistan and citizen of Canada.

Headley was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States, and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to that overseas terrorism conspiracy.

Rana was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support "to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley, and at least three other specific individuals in Pakistan," the Justice Department statement said.

If convicted, Headley faces up to life in prison, while Rana faces up to 15 years behind bars.

Headley allegedly contacted conspirators abroad, including Ilyas Kashmiri, identified as "the operational chief of the Azad Kashmir section of Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), a Pakistani-based terrorist organization with links to Al-Qaeda."

He also contacted a person identified as "Individual A" associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based radical Islamic group that fought Indian rule in divided Kashmir.

Starting in late 2008, Headley "corresponded extensively" with the foreign contacts regarding the "Mickey Mouse Project" and "the northern project" -- code-names for "one or more attacks at facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten," the Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005.

The cartoons angered Muslims worldwide and sparked global protests in January and February 2006.

Demonstrators burned Danish flags in protests that culminated in February 2006 with the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and dozens of deaths in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan.

Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, "allegedly identified and conducted surveillance of potential targets of a terrorist attack in Denmark on two separate trips to Denmark in January and July 2009, and reported and attempted to report on his efforts to other conspirators in Pakistan."

Rana in turn "allegedly helped arrange Headley's travels overseas and conceal their true nature and purpose to surveil potential terror targets overseas, and discussed potential targets for attack with Headley."

The FBI arrested Headley on October 3 at the airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan, and detained Rana on October 18 at his Chicago home.

Rana owns several businesses, including First World Immigration Services, which has offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto.