Key Mumbai Terror Plot Planner Testifies at Chicago Trial


A Pakistani navy frogman was looking at sea charts and discussing where the landing for the terrorist gunmen should take place, he said. There was disagreement among Lashkar members about where the landing should occur, he said, saying he objected to a proposed landing site near the Taj Hotel because the boat to ferry the terrorists would have to go by an Indian naval facility.

"The frogman agreed with me," Headley told the jury.

According to Headley's plea agreement following the Mumbai attacks, he was told to avoid contact with his handlers until further notice. In January 2009, Headley conducted surveillance for a possible attack against the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which became a target by terrorists after its publication of cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad in 2005. Headley also reportedly conducted work for his Lashkar handlers in March 2009, casing India's National Defense College in Delhi and several Jewish centers in different Indian cities.

During his visits to Denmark in early 2009, Headley used the cover of Rana's business to visit the newspaper's offices where he expressed interest in buying an advertisement for First World Immigration Services in the newspaper. The plot against the Danish newspaper was referred to as the "Mickey Mouse Project" in coded communications between Headley and his contact in Pakistan.

Headley, who was arrested in Chicago as he was preparing to travel to Pakistan in October 2009, is going to be both the key witness for the prosecution and for Rana's defense. Although he appeared in court for his initial appearance and guilty plea, details of Headley's terrorist planning and travels have largely been confined to secret grand jury testimony. U.S. officials last year also allowed Headley to be interviewed by Indian security and law enforcement officials.

Although many of the court proceedings have been closed and numerous documents in the court docket are sealed, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber has released one key segment of Headley's grand jury testimony which was secret until last month where Headley discussed doing work for the ISI.

Headley in his own testimony acknowledged his work for the ISI, telling the grand jury: "During my trip to Chicago, I told [Rana] about my meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar. I also told him about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI. I even told him some of the espionage stories that Major Iqbal had told me."

Court watchers, journalists and the victims of the Mumbai attacks hope to learn more about the mysterious Major Iqbal and who he may be.

Several of the U.S. family members who lost their loved ones in the attacks have sued the Pakistani government and the ISI. According to court records in the civil lawsuit, the attorneys representing the families attempted to serve subpoenas to Major Iqbal and members of the ISI to find out information about the attacks. Several of the subpoenas were returned unopened but the subpoena for Major Iqbal, which was delivered to a location in Pakistan, was returned to the New York attorneys and had been opened.

The trial is also expected to reveal more information about Ilyas Kashmiri, a rising figure in Al Qaeda who some U.S. counterterrorist analysts say over time could play an influential role in Al Qaeda's hierarchy and leadership.

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