A Chicago man accused of conspiring to attack a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and of aiding a man who was conspiring with the terror group that claimed responsibility for the 2008 Mumbai massacre, failed Wednesday to convince a federal judge to release him on bond.
Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian who lives in Chicago, is being held in connection with the so-called "Mickey Mouse Project" pending formal charges. In October, the FBI arrested Rana and David Headley and accused them of planning a terror attack on the Danish newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005.
The FBI arrested Headley at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Oct. 3, as he was about to board a flight to Philadelphia for an onward trip to Denmark. Agents said the 49-year-old was carrying a copy of the Danish paper, a street guide for Copenhagen, a list of phone numbers and a computer memory stick with ten short videos of the newspaper's offices and the entrance to a military barracks in Copenhagen.
Click here to read the complaint filed against Rana.
Read the complaint filed against Headley by clicking here.
Authorities say that Rana had reservations to make his own trip from Chicago to Copenhagen on Oct. 29, but was arrested on Oct. 18 before he could depart. They also allege that Rana aided Headley in his travels abroad, which included contacts with an agent of the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Rana's attorneys called three witnesses, including Rana's brother-in-law, to testify that the 48-year-old was a non-violent and deserved to be released. To support Rana's continued detention, federal prosecutors gave Judge Nan Nolan evidence that included Rana's initial five-hour post-arrest interview with federal authorities.
Judge Nolan said she wanted to review the material before making any decision on Rana's release. Rana's next bond hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Headley, a U.S. citizen of half-Pakistani heritage who was born Daood Gilani, had an initial appearance in court on Oct. 11. No date has yet been finalized for his next hearing. Like Rana, he remains in federal custody in Chicago.
Headley traveled to Copenhagen in January and visited two different offices of the newspaper, the FBI said. Prosecutors say Rana helped arrange Headley's January trip and another in July through his company, First World Immigration Services, an immigration consultancy with offices in Canada, New York and Chicago. They also say Rana stayed in contact with Headley via email, including sending a coded message, while Headley traveled in Denmark and Pakistan.
From Denmark, Headley flew to Pakistan and met with his contact there, according to the complaint. Authorities said the plot against the paper was referred to as the "Mickey Mouse Project" in communications between Headley and his contact in Pakistan.
Authorities identified the contact as Ilyas Kashmiri, a commander of the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which claimed responsibility for the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India. The U.S. thought it had killed Kashmiri in a recent drone strike. But someone claiming to be Kashmiri recently gave an interview to a Pakistani newspaper, expressing support for al-Qaeda and saying that attacks like those in Mumbai, which killed at least 173 people, will be "nothing compared to what has already been planned."
Pakistan has banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the country's security officials acknowledge it remains active. Over the past few months, members of the organization have told reporters that they are still recruiting for and plotting attacks in India.
The terror group was created in part by Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, in the late 1980s to attack Afghanistan and India. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for Pakistan's military, has denied reports that any current or former ISI agents had been arrested in connection with Headley or Rana.
Had the Chicago men carried out their alleged plan to attack the Danish paper, it would have been one of the first assaults outside of South Asia with Lashkar-e-Taiba connections, U.S. officials said.
Just last week, Pakistan acknowledged connections between its military and the alleged plot against the Danish paper. Maj. Gen. Abbas confirmed that a retired major had been arrested for ties to Rana and Headley. But Abbas denied reports that active members of the Pakistani military have been arrested in connection with the case.