‘Foreign governments can quiz Headley on U.S. soil’

With the U.S. government’s assurance that he will not be extradited to India or Pakistan, LeT operative David Coleman Headley has agreed to be “available” to foreign governments, such as India, who may “interview” him only on US soil.

Under the plea agreement that Headley, a Pakistani-origin American citizen, has entered into with the prosecutors for pleading guilty to 12 counts of terror charges, he cannot be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark if he pleads guilty or is convicted of the offences in the superseding indictment.

“Headley has agreed to not only continue his cooperation with the government, which he has been doing since October, but also to make himself available for interviews by other governments in this country. As part of his agreement, he has agreed to allow himself to be interviewed by foreign governments in this country,” Headley’s attorney John Theis told reporters after the hearing.

When asked, if this means that Indian investigators could come to US and talk to Headley, even about the Mumbai attacks, Mr. Theis said “Yes. If he refuses to talk to foreign governments here, it would mean a violation of the plea agreement“.

The plea agreement states that whenever directed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information.”

The 49-year-old Pakistani-American had further agreed that, when directed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he would fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the U.S. by way of deposition, or video-conferencing.

Mr. Theis said Headley’s guilty plea is a “manifestation, one example of his regret and his remorse. His conduct contributed to the harm of many people“.

Since his arrest in October, Headley has been cooperating with the government and has provided substantial assistance in the investigation of this case as well as “critical” information regarding intelligence on other matters.

He said all the information that Headley has given to U.S. authorities is and has been shared with India and Denmark.

Through the 13 days that Headley “talked”, he was informed of his right to remain silent, of his right to counsel, that anything he said could and would be used against him.

“But he chose not to exercise those rights and in fact to provide timely, thorough, trustworthy and complete information,” his lawyer Robert Seeder added.

Mr. Seeder said the information provided by Headley has “significantly helped the United States and has also aided other countries”.

“His cooperation has potentially saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people and his cooperation is going to continue throughout the remainder of this case,” Mr. Theis said, adding Headley was never involved in any kind of plot involving U.S. soil or U.S. citizens, “not knowingly“.

The lawyers refused to comment on the issue of Headley, son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, being a double agent.

“There is nothing in the plea agreement about anything about that (his being a double agent). I don’t know where that kind of language comes from“.

On whether Headley would get a life sentence, Mr. Theis said the range of the sentence could be either life or any other sentence less than that as authorised by law.

“It is obviously a complicated case. Sentencing is up to the Judge. This case has a long way to go,” he added.

‘Headley attended LeT terror camps in Pakistan’

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley had attended five terror camps being run by LeT in Pakistan such training between 2002-03 according to a Headley’s plea agreement document

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley had participated in terror camps being run by LeT in Pakistan despite promises by the then President Parvez Musharraf in 2002 to the Bush Administration that all such facilities will be shut down.

Headley, a LeT operative arrested in October 2009 by the FBI, had attended five such training camps run by the terror outfit between 2002-03, according to a Headley’s plea agreement document which was submitted by US Attorney, Patrick J FitzGerald before a Chicago court on Thursday.

He attended a three-week course starting in February 2002 that provided indoctrination on the merits of waging jihad, next he participated in a three-week course starting in August 2002 to get training in the use of weapons and grenades

Headley learnt about close combat tactics, the use of weapons and grenades and survival skills during a three—month course in starting April 2003; he got training about the counter—surveillance skills starting August 2003 and starting December 2003 he received combat and tactical training.

Notably in January 2002, Gen. Musharraf had said that he would not allow LeT to carry any anti-India activities inside Pakistan.

But LeT ran terrorist training camps unabated even as Gen. Musharraf conducted back channel negotiations with India on the resolution of the Kashmir problem between 2002—2006, the agreement said.

Starting in or about August 2002, defendant (Headley) attended a three-week course and received training in, among other skills, the use of weapons and grenades. Starting in or about April 2003, defendant attended a three—month course and received training in various skills, including, but not limited to, close combat tactics, the use weapons and grenades, and survival skills,” the agreement said.

“Starting in or around August 2003, defendant attended a three—week course and received training in, among other skills, counter—surveillance. Starting in or around December 2003, defendant attended an approximately three month course and received combat and tactical training,” it said .

Headley had pleaded guilty on all 12 counts of charges against him in a Chicago court.

The plea agreement also proves beyond doubt the direct connection between LeT and Al Qaeda.

According to it, a retired Pakistani Major, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), also known as “Pasha,” told Headley that if LeT did not help him in carrying out attack against the Danish newspaper, he would get someone else.

Although not identified by name at the time, Headley later learnt this individual to be co-defendant Ilyas Kashmiri.

Abdur Rehman previously had told Headley that he had been working with Kashmiri and that Kashmiri was in direct contact with a senior leader of “Al Qaeda”, the agreement said.

“Pasha stated to defendant (Headley) words to the effect that if ‘Lashkar’ did not go through with the attack, Pasha knew someone who would. Although not identified by name at the time, defendant later learned this individual to be co-defendant Ilyas Kashmiri.

“Pasha previously had stated to defendant that he had been working with Kashmiri and that Kashmiri was in direct contact with a senior leader for Al Qaeda,” the Plea Agreement said.

Kasab guilty of killings at Taj, Oberoi, Nariman House: Prosecution

Lone surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab is guilty of killing people at The Taj, Hotel Oberoi-Trident and Nariman House although he did not directly participate in the terror attacks at these places, the prosecution argued before the trial court on Thursday.

Some portions of the confession made by Kasab before a magistrate were corroborated by telephonic conversations between the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers intercepted by the police during terror attacks, which proved Kasab’s role in the conspiracy, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam submitted.

While Kasab and slain terrorist Abu Ismail had rained bullets at people at Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus, Cama Hospital, Metro Junction and planted bombs in two taxis, eight other team members had killed people in Hotel Taj, Hotel Trident and Nariman House.

“Kasab has been changing colours from time to time and he has also refused to acknowledge CCTV footage of his friends who struck terror at Hotel Taj, Trident and Nariman House.

But I have circumstantial evidence to establish that Kasab is guilty of attacks at these places also,” Nikam argued.

Nikam told judge M.L. Tahaliyani that Kasab had stated in his confession that LeT chief Hafeez Sayeed had given a code name to all the attackers including himself (Kasab). This is corroborated in telephone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers.

Nikam further argued Kasab had stated in confession that LeT leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi had told terrorist Abu Ismael to open the bottom valve of Kuber boat (by which they arrived in Mumbai) so that the vessel would sink and evidence would be destroyed.

Kasab had stated in confession that they did not open the valve of Kuber boat while leaving the vessel because they spotted another boat and thought it belonged to the Indian Navy.

So in a haste, they forgot to open the valve.

This is also corroborated in telephone conversations the attackers had with their handlers during the terror attacks at the two hotels and Nariman House, Nikam said.

Nikam said this proved that whatever Kasab had told the magistrate in his confession was “completely true“.

Quoting another instance, Prosecutor Nikam said Kasab had also stated in his confession that he had killed Amarsinh Solanki, the navigator of Kuber boat.

The prosecution state that the terrorists had come from Pakistan by boat. Midway, they hijacked the Kuber boat and arrived by that vessel near Mumbai. Then they switched to a dingy (rubber boat) which they had brought from Pakistan to reach the coast.

Mumbai remembers 26/11 amid blame game

People light candles outside the Taj Mahal Hotel which was attacked last year in Mumbai, on the eve of he first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks.

AP People light candles outside the Taj Mahal Hotel which was attacked last year in Mumbai, on the eve of he first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks.

Amid the ongoing blame game in Mumbai’s police establishment over who failed in the line of duty, the bustling metropolis observes on Thursday the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack in solemn remembrance of those who lost their lives.

Former Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor’s interview to a news magazine wherein he said that a section of senior police officers refused to be on the ground and take on the terrorists, touched off a controversy ahead of the anniversary, prompting Chief Minister Ashok Chavan to say, “police are a very disciplined organisation and this (remarks) does not fit into it.”

The report of the government-appointed Ram Pradhan Committee, which went into the lapses leading to one of the most brazen terror strikes in recent memory, is yet to be made public though “relevant portions” were tabled in the Legislature.

There will be a series of events to commemorate the attacks, including a parade by police and with its new weaponry and communication gadgets.

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram will unveil a martyr’s memorial at the Police Gymkhana in south Mumbai, while a prayer meeting is also scheduled at the historical Gateway of India.

Declaring security as the government’s top priority, State Home Minister R.R. Patil said Rs 226 crore have been allocated to the Home department for strengthening it.

Force One, an elite force formed on the lines of the National Security Guards (NSG), became operational with the first batch of 216 commandos of the State’s own specialised counter-terrorism unit inducted on Tuesday.

The commandos have undergone rigorous training and will be provided all infrastructure to enable them be on par with international counter-terrorism units, Mr. Chavan said.

While there was outrage and spontaneous outpouring of grief over the tragic loss of lives in the 26/11 carnage, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mumbai in July and met the staff of Hotel Taj, who risked their lives to save the guests, many of them foreigners.

Ms. Clinton stayed at the Tower Wing of the Hotel to express solidarity with the victims of the terror attack that left 166 people dead, including 22 foreigners of whom five were Americans.

NSG commandos killed eight of the 10 Lashker-e-Taiba terrorists who attacked Mumbai, while police killed another and captured Ajmal Kasab.

NSG lost Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and commando Gajendra Singh Bisht. Unnikrishnan’s parents plan to visit the spot where their son attained martyrdom, on November 27, a day after the anniversary.

The Jewish Chabad House where Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were killed along with others in Colaba’s Nariman House, will reopen on Wednesday. A memorial service for the Holtzbergs and other victims of the attacks will mark the reopening.

Though Mr. Patil said his priority would be to ensure compensation to the victims’ families at the earliest, the government recently admitted before the State Human Rights Commission that more than 70 per cent of the 26/11 victims had not received compensation from the Centre.

Indian Hotels, the company which owns the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, and EIH Ltd, which operates Oberoi-Trident, have so far got Rs 167 crore as insurance claim from General Insurance Corporation on account of the attacks. The part-payment was given from the total claim of Rs 500 crore, a GIC official said.

The terror onslaught had triggered a spontaneous public outcry against the government with a string of protest demonstrations and candle-light vigils.

The outcry forced heads in the government to roll and both Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his deputy Mr. Patil had to quit in quick succession.

However, a year later, Mr. Deshmukh has been appointed a Union minister and Mr. Patil is back as Home Minister.

Heroes of Mumbai Terror Attack – 26/11

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An otherwise tragic time for the nation, the 26/11 terror brought to the fore some heroic moments. These men of honour have saved several lives, some even losing theirs in the process. But these men will now live on forever in our memories. Here’s a tribute

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At the time when terrorists were on the loose across Mumbai’s streets, ATS Chief Hemant Karkare was among the first to react to the situation. Karkare wanted to lead from the front in the fight, and hoped to corner the terrorists without any further damage. But he was eventually killed when one of the terrorists managed to spray a volley of bullets on his jeep near Cama Hospital

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Senior Police Inspector, Vijay Salaskar who had neutralized severaldreaded criminals over the years, decided to take on these terrorists too. On hearing about the location of the terrorists, he drove his jeep along the vicinity of Cama Hospital. In spite of being able to fire and injure one of the terrorist, he succumbed to bullet wounds.

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A daring Super-cop, Assistant Commissioner Ashok Kamte has been known to be a brilliant enforcer of law and order in trying circumstances. He along with others decided to do the same with the 26/11 terrorists but was ambushed from behind. He managed to fire at them but was eventually shot dead by a volley of bullets.

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Part of the country’s elite National Security Guards (NSG) Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, 31, was killed while in combat with terrorists. During the Taj operation, when one of his colleagues got injured Major Unnikrishnan’s message to him was ‘Do not come up, I will handle them’. He engaged the terrorists all by himself and eventually succumbed to bullet wounds.

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The Nanny of the Israeli household in Nariman Point, Sandra Samuel had saved the live of the 2-year-old baby Moshe. With the terrorists still inside the house, Sandra Samuel rescued the child and found her way out. The Israeli government is considering her the nation’s highest honour ‘Righteous among the Nations’.

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General Manager of the Taj Hotel, Karambir Kang personally oversaw the evacuation of several guests, despite losing his entire family to the terrorists. The grief-stricken GM lost his wife and two young children to the fire that engulfed the sixth floor of the hotel.

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Another hero was Rajan Kamble, one of Taj Hotel’s maintenance staff. Though being shot in his back, Kamble managed to transfer many guests to safer locations, away from the gunfire. However he eventually died of the injuries, despite attempts by his doctor guests to save him.

SIM card of phone used by 26/11 terrorists traced to Delhiite

The SIM card of a mobile phone used by 26/11 terrorists to talk to their Pakistani handlers during the attacks last year has been traced to a Delhi resident whose whereabouts are still not known, a witness informed the trial court here on Thursday.

Deposing before Judge M L Tahaliyani, a former Airtel nodal officer Sunil Tiwari said that on a request made by Mumbai police, he had made inquiries about the SIM card number used in the phone number 09910719124 and found that it was issued in the name of Suresh Prasad, a resident of Masoorpur in New Delhi.

The SIM card was issued on October 5 last year to Prasad who had given a fake address, the witness said in response to a query by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

The witness said, on November 27, while the attacks were on, then Additional Police Commissioner Parambir Singh had forwarded a written request to his company to inquire about the SIM card and also to divert all calls from the number to 022-23053162. Accordingly, his request was complied with, the court was told.

Another witness, Govinder Singh Bakshi, who owns “India Communication” shop in Delhi also deposed saying Prasad had purchased the SIM from him and personally collected it.

Bakshi further told the court that Suresh had signed the application form and affixed his photograph besides furnishing electricity bill as residence proof.

Investigation Officer Vilas Wankhede informed the court that his team had visited the Delhi address given by Prasad and found it to be fake.

… contd.