Conflict & Justice

Witness in US terror trial implicates Pakistan




Testifying before a US court, confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley described a close alliance between Pakistan’s intelligence service and the Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group, alleging that Pakistani officers recruited him and played a central role in planning the 2008 Mumbai attacks, reports the Washington Post.

Indian officials and counterterrorism experts will be non-plussed by Headley's testimony--which does little but formally affirm his earlier statements and put the stamp of legitimacy on a claim that India has been making for decades.  

However, in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the smoking gun may give India more room to push for better access to US intelligence information (Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is visiting India from May 24-27) and an opportunity to drive the wedge deeper between the US and Pakistan as the end of their marriage of convenience in Afghanistan looms closer.

Here's the gist of Headley's testimony as WashPo lays it out:

Headley testified that Lashkar “operated under the umbrella of the ISI” even after the group was banned in Pakistan in 2001.

The ISI and Lashkar “coordinated with each other,” Headley testified. “And ISI provided assistance to Lashkar: financial, military and moral support.”

After he trained three years with Lashkar, Headley said, a “Major Ali” of the ISI recruited him when he was briefly detained near the Afghanistan border in 2006. Ali referred him to an officer known as Major Iqbal, who became Headley’s handler and worked separately but in coordination with Lashkar chiefs, directing Headley’s reconnaissance in India and providing $25,000 to fund his mission.

Before reporting to Lashkar, Headley testified, he always reported first to Iqbal. Iqbal participated in key aspects of the Mumbai plot, such as target selection, the route for an amphibious attack and a proposed safe house for Lashkar gunmen, Headley said.