One of the key planners behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks testified today that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the terrorist group accused of carrying out the coordinated shootings and bombings in India, has connections within Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency.
David Headley took the witness stand today as the government's first witness in the Chicago terrorism trial of businessman Tahawwur Rana, 50, who has been charged with three counts of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Tayyiba by assisting Headley.
Headley, who pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, conducted surveillance and casing videos for the attackers and used a GPS to program in key location markers for the Mumbai terrorists as they moved to their targets and ravaged the city for three days in November 2008, striking luxury hotels, the train station, restaurants and a Jewish center.
Headley went to Pakistan as a U.S. government informant but later linked up with the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terrorist group after he arrived.
Headley testified that in 2004, after meeting with top leaders in the group, he proposed that Lashkar sue the United States government to challenge its designation as a terrorist organization. Top leaders in the group told Headley they would need to consult with the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency if they were to try to sue the United States.
"They coordinate with each other," Headley said, when asked why they would need approval from the ISI, Headley replied. "Wiith financial and military support."
Headley discussed how he attended several training camps with the group and how he was trained with weapons and in Koranic studies when he returned to Pakistan from the United States after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Eventually in 2004, Headley attended a leadership course with about 200 Lashkar terrorists, he said, adding that he had wanted to fight against Indian troops in Kashmir but Lashkar leaders told him they wanted to use him in other operations because he had been born in the United States and may not raise suspicion.
In December 2005, he discussed with his Lashkar handler, Sajid Mir, plans to go into India. Headley was introduced to a retired Pakistani military officer named Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed a.k.a. "Pasha."
The following year, Pasha and Headley tried to meet with a drug smuggler Headley knew to possibly smuggle weapons into India for an attack, he told the jury. But they were arrested in northern Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. Headley admitted he had been training with Lashkar and was introduced to an ISI official named Major Ali.
Headley testified that he told Major Ali about his plans to go to India and plans to change his name and get a U.S. passport. Major Ali was "very pleased" and then wanted to introduce him to another ISI officer known as Major Iqbal, the witness explained.
Rana, who owned and oversaw First World Immigration Services in Chicago and other cities, allegedly allowed Headley to use his business as a cover story. The indictment filed against Rana and other conspirators in the case alleges that in June 2006, Headley "advised... [Rana] of his assignment to perform surveillance for potential targets in India and obtained Rana's approval for opening a First World office in Mumbai, India as a cover for these activities."
Federal prosecutors today argued that the Pakistani-Canadian businessman supported and even laughed about plotting terror with his co-conspirator.