FBI: Terror plot suspects had ties to Pakistan
November 18, 2009
CHICAGO (AP) – One of two Chicago men accused of plotting an armed attack on a Danish newspaper may have been involved in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, authorities in that country say.
The FBI for now is saying only that it has evidence David Coleman Headley was in contact with the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba – which the Indian government blames for the Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead and 308 wounded – while he allegedly planned and carried out reconnaissance this year near the newspaper offices in Copenhagen.
Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, were arrested last month. They are accused of plotting to kill one of the editors and a cartoonist at the Danish paper for publishing 12 cartoons in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which ignited outrage in much of the Muslim world. The FBI claims Rana helped arrange Headley’s travel.
Officials in India say Headley also may have been involved in planning the Mumbai attacks during a visit to India before the attacks. India’s government did not say whether or how it knows Headley was there last year, and the U.S. attorney’s office would not comment.
“We are investigating in the Indian cities where he went and whom he met,” India’s home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters last week.
Attorneys for Headley declined to comment on reports about India’s investigation or the U.S. charges against their client.
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Rana, a Pakistani immigrant to Canada who has lived in Chicago for a decade, and Headley are charged in criminal complaints with conspiring to provide material support to terrorism and providing material support to terrorism. They will not enter pleas until they are indicted.
Rana’s defense attorney, Patrick Blegen, said his client would deny the charges if asked and may be an innocent dupe of Headley, whom he may have met when both attended a school in Pakistan.
For now, the only firm association the FBI is indicating between the men and the Pakistani terrorist organizations was related to the alleged plot against the paper, although they say the men talked about possible attacks on other foreign targets.
Federal officials have outlined a chronology of communications between Headley and Pakistan-based terrorist groups that begins in December 2008, the month after the Mumbai attacks, and continues until just before his arrest. The FBI says Headley traveled to Pakistan this year and may have been headed there when he was arrested Oct. 3 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport en route to Philadelphia.
According to an FBI affidavit, Headley admitted working with Lashkar-e-Taiba, knowing that it had been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization, and with Ilyas Kashmiri, a leader of another Pakistan-based terrorist organization, Harakat ul Jihad Islami.
Headley allegedly told the FBI that individuals supplied by Kashmiri were to carry out the attack on the newspaper under the plan. Kashmiri is described in a State Department report as a commander of terrorist forces in Kashmir and a former commander in the Afghan jihad.
Federal prosecutors also have made it clear that they have intercepted numerous phone conversations and e-mails between Headley and a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, whom they have identified in court papers as Individual A. The two men allegedly talked of the planned attack in Denmark, which they called “the Mickey Mouse Project” and “the northern project,” according to court papers.
The papers also cite e-mails between Headley and another figure identified only as Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A.
In one communication, the court papers say, Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A told Headley he had “new investment plans,” which investigators say referred to a terrorist attack other than the Danish one.
Associated Press Writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report