Updated: February 13, 2016 3:23:05 am
American national and 26/11 scout David Coleman Headley told a special court Friday that he had conducted a recce of Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar in 2007 because he felt the Lashkar-e-Toiba would, in the future, be interested in attacking it and assassinating the then Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Headley said he had struck a friendship with a man who claimed to be Uddhav Thackeray’s public relations officer to gain access to the party headquarters.
On the fifth day of Headley’s deposition, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam asked him who Rajaram Rege was. Headley said he had met Rege for the first time inside Shiv Sena Bhavan. Asked why he wanted to develop a close relationship with Rege, he said, “This was early in 2007. I thought that in the future, Lashkar would be interested in attacking the Shiv Sena or assassinating its head. At that time, I thought that LeT would want to target it.”
When Nikam asked him about Rege’s position in the Sena, Headley said, “I think he told me that he was public relations officer for the son of the head, Uddhav Thackeray.” He added that he had entered Shiv Sena Bhavan twice and had taken videos of all his meetings with Rege. He said he handed over the videos to Sajid Mir of the LeT and one Major Iqbal of the ISI. He also told the court that in a meeting to discuss targets, LeT’s second-in-command Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi “said it was very important that the surveillance part of the job should be done properly. And that this would give us a chance for revenge for all bomb blasts that India had done in Pakistan”.
Headley said that in his month-long visit to Mumbai before the 26/11 attacks, he visited the Nalanda Books and Records Shop in the Taj Mahal Hotel and purchased five books — Indian Army — Vision 2020, Royal Rajasthan, India’s Jewish Heritage, The Grand Trunk Road and Polo in India.
He said he purchased the first book as it was a subject he was interested in and that he had many similar books at his home. “The other four books were all picture books. They were beautiful. Nothing sinister,” he said with a smile. This led Judge G A Sanap to laugh and ask, “Book number one was sinister?” Headley, too, laughed and replied, “Yes, your honour.”
Headley’s reconnaissance trips also took him to Siddhivinayak Temple, a target for the LeT that was later dropped. During one such visit, Headley said he saw a man selling yellow and red sacred threads to be tied across the wrist, and he decided to buy them for the 10 terrorists headed to Mumbai so “they could blend in”.
He also said he recommended against attacking Siddhivinayak Temple and the naval air station in Mumbai as he felt such an attack would require all 10 terrorists to be at one location for it to be successful. Headley said working for the LeT also led to him divorcing his third wife, Faiza Outalha. He said she approached LeT chief Hafeez Saeed to save the marriage. But when Saeed asked him to take her back, Headley told him that his work with the LeT kept him too busy to do so.
When he was shown a picture of a young man wearing a purple shirt, Headley replied, “That is the picture of Ajmal Kasab, Rehmatullah Aleh (May God bless him).”
Nikam also questioned Headley over an email he received on November 28, 2008 from his first wife Shazia Gilani. That first email said, “Congrats on the graduation. Ceremony was really great.” Headley, who never graduated college, said the words “graduation’” and ‘ceremony’ stood for the attacks. He replied on November 30, 2008, saying, “Thank you jaanu. I studied hard to get good grades.”
Headley said he was in India between March 7 and March 17, 2009, after he was instructed by al-Qaeda’s Ilyas Kashmiri to conduct a recce of National Defence College in Delhi and Jewish Chabad Houses in Delhi, Pushkar, Pune and Goa. He said the NDC was the al-Qaeda’s “high value” target. He said Pasha had told him that “if the attack was successful, they would be able to kill more brigadiers than in any past war between Pakistan and India”.
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