Chicago Man Charged For Role In 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks

U.S. citizen allegedly co-planned attack that killed 175, including 6 Americans.

December 7, 2009, 1:11 PM

Dec. 7, 2009 — -- The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago has filed terrorism charges against a Chicago man for his alleged involvement in last year's deadly Mumbai terror attack. Prosecutors say Headley conducted reconnaissance of public places during repeated trips to the Indian city, helping a Pakistan-based terror group plan an attack that left 175 dead, including six Americans.

David Headley was charged in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of murdering U.S. citizens in India, conspiracy to bomb public targets in India, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark.


Previously Headley and Tahawwur Rana, also from the Chicago area, had been charged with plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. The men were initially arrested in October for that alleged plot. To date, Rana has only been charged for his alleged role in the Denmark plot.


As the investigation continued after their arrest, U.S. terrorism investigators began to unravel connections to plots in India, including the Mumbai attack, which targeted ten locations in Mumbai including restaurants, popular tourist hotels and the city's main rail station. According to Justice Department officials, Headley is cooperating with investigators in the case.

Headley, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Pakistan, allegedly trained at Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps going back to 2002. He changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley in 2005, according to the criminal information, in order to "present himself as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani."

Headley's Alleged Ties To Terror

In recent weeks investigators from the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies say they have run down leads and connections between Headley and the Mumbai attacks, for which the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group has claimed responsibility. Senior FBI officials held meetings with India's national security advisor during the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Washington two weeks ago. In recent days an FBI team from the United States traveled to Delhi to share additional information.

"This case serves as a reminder that the terrorist threat is global in nature and requires constant vigilance at home and abroad," said David Kris, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "We continue to share leads developed in this investigation with our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners as we work together on this important matter."

Headley's attorney, John Theis, told that his client has been cooperating with authorities and that the new charges didn't come as a surprise.

"We were aware that there would be additional charges that were likely to be brought into this," said Theis. "We're reviewing them and looking at a lot of things." Theis declined comment on the substance of the charges.

The charges filed today allege that between mid-2006 and July 2008, on five separate trips to Mumbai, Headley conducted extensive surveillance and operational planning for the group of terrorists that carried out the deadly attack, which began Nov. 26, 2008 and lasted until the last of 10 attackers had been killed on Nov. 29. One of the ten men involved in the assault survived and was captured.

"During his stays in India, Headley conducted extensive surveillance, taking pictures and making videotapes of various targets in India, including, but not limited to, the Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi hotel, the Leopold Café, the Nariman House, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station as well as other places of public use, state and government facilities, public transportation systems and infrastructure facilities," the criminal information filed today noted.

Former Pakistani Military Member's Connections

The case reveals more information about the deadly attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba. The terrorists carried out their attacks with assault weapons, grenades and improvised explosive devices. The new charges allege that after Headley's visits to Mumbai he returned to Pakistan and, "met with other co-conspirators, and provided the results of his surveillance, including photographs, videos and oral descriptions of various locations."

The criminal information also notes, "In or around March 2008, Headley met with other coconspirators, and discussed potential landing sites for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea in Mumbai, India. In or around March 2008, Headley was instructed to take boat trips in and around the Mumbai harbor and take surveillance video, which Headley did during his stay in India starting in April 2008."

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago today also unsealed a criminal complaint charging Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired major in the Pakistani military, with conspiracy charges in the Denmark plot to blow up the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Abdur Rehman is currently believed to be living in the Lahore region in Pakistan. Rehman had been arrested by Pakistani authorities in the summer of 2009 but he was released.


Prosecutors have previously alleged that Headley and Rana were plotting to undertake attacks in Denmark and were in communication with members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the al-Qaeda linked terror group Harakat ul Jihad-Islami (HUJI). Headley was allegedly in direct contact with the HUJI commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who was targeted by a drone attack in Sep. 2009 and believed to be dead until he made statements in the Pakistani press acknowledging his support for al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

How Feds Say Headley & Rana Worked Together

Prosecutors in a detention memorandum filed last month in Rana's case alleged that he had engaged in discussions with a member of the terorrist group Lashkar-e-Taiba to get people into the United States illegally through Rana's immigration business First World Immigration Services, "In late 2008, the defendant and the individual identified... as Individual B, who is affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, had discussed a 'loophole' to get individuals into the United States under false pretenses."

Headley allegedly used the front of Rana's immigration business to set up a First World office In Mumbai "as cover for this activity," according to the criminal information filed against Headley.

In court documents, prosecutors have also alleged that the two men discussed the possibility of attack against the National Defense College in India. "Rana, in fact, used the English word 'target' in this discussion," according to Rana's detention memorandum, filed last month by prosecutors.

Headley was previously charged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. Rana has been charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorists. Headley was arrested on Oct. 3 as he was preparing to travel to Pakistan. Rana, a Canadian citizen, was arrested on Oct. 18. A detention hearing for Rana has been scheduled to continue on Dec. 15.

"This investigation remains active and ongoing. The team of prosecutors and agents will continue to seek charges against the other persons responsible for these attacks," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

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