Terror operative David Coleman Headley (55) alias Dawood Gilani, who has been granted pardon by a Mumbai special court and made an approver and witness in the 26/11 terror attack case, had visited Pune city twice— firstin July 2008, months before the November 26, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai, and then later in March 2009.
On Thursday, Headley appeared before the Mumbai court through video-conference from an undisclosed location in the United States where he is serving a 35-year jail term for his role in the attacks.
Headley was arrested on October 3, 2009. Later, he told the US court that he had conducted surveillance of German Bakery in Pune that was bombed on February 13, 2010. However, Headley has not been named as an accused in the German Bakery blast case.
The Mumbai court has pardoned Headley on the condition that he makes full disclosure of the criminal conspiracy behind the 26/11 attacks as well as his role and those of others, including the alleged plotter Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. It should be noted that Abu Jundal is one of the accused named by the ATS in German Bakery bomb blast case.
As per Pune police records, Headley visited Osho Ashram in Koregaon Park during his Pune stay. Sources from intelligence agencies said his main aim was to conduct a survey of the area around the Chhabad house in Koregaopn Park. Sources said a book, How to Pray Like Jew, was recovered from Headley after he was arrested in the US in 2009. It is believed he visited the Chhabad House in Pune posing as a Jewish American.
The Indian Express was the first to report that Headley stayed in Room No. 202 of Hotel Surya Villa in Koregaon Park, located a few metres away from the Chhabbad House, in March 2009. Headley filled the C-form, which is mandatory for every foreigner before checking into any hotel. A photographed copy of C-form, which is with The Indian Express, shows Headley checked into this hotel at 6.15 am on March 16 and checked out at 8 am on March 17, 2009. He had a multiple entry B-visa (No: 314473) for India issued to him in Chicago on July 18, 2007 with validity up to July 17, 2012. Headley had written ‘180 days’ in response to a query on the duration of stay in India, listing the purpose of visit as ‘tourist’. But the main register at hotel carried his purpose of visit as ‘business’, not ‘tourist’. He stayed in a single occupancy non-AC room with a tariff of Rs 1,200. His total bill at the time of check-out was Rs 1,240. Sources said Headley may have surveyed various spots around the Chhabad House, but identified and made a video of German Bakery as it was a popular food joint with many Indian and foreign visitors and there was no police security outside the bakery.
Headley was, however, arrested in the US before the German Bakery blast was executed in February 2010, which killed 17 people. It may be recalled that after the Mumbai terror attacks, the Pune police had stepped up security around Jewish centres in Pune, including Chhabad house in Koregaon Park, Jewish synagogue in Camp area and a Jewish religious centre in Rasta Peth.
Months after the German Bakery blast, in September 2010, the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested Himayat Baig, alleged LeT commander for Maharashtra, in connection with the blast. According to ATS, the blast was the handiwork of LeT and Indian Mujahideen (IM) members. Baig was allegedly trained in Colombo in March 2008 by LeT operative Fayaz Kagzi and Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, natives of Beed district in Maharashtra, who is wanted in Aurangabad RDX seizure case. He allegedly planned and executed the German Bakery blast with IM operatives Yasin Bhatkal and Mohsin Choudhary. Abu Jundal was deported from Saudi Arabia to India on June 25, 2012. A Pune court awarded death penalty to Baig on April 18, 2013. On August 29, 2013, Yasin Bhatkal was arrested on the India-Nepal border. Yasin was formally arrested in German Bakery blast case on March 14, 2014. Baig later moved the Bombay High Court against death penalty.