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Headley could be linked to Chabad attack: Israel’s envoy

Israeli agencies are coordinating with the international probe involving suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley...

Written by Y P Rajesh | Mumbai |
November 26, 2009 11:37:00 pm

Israeli agencies are coordinating with the international probe involving suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley,arrested by the FBI last month for allegedly planning terror attacks in Denmark and India,to find out if he has any link with Mumbai’s 26/11 Jewish target of Nariman House after he was found carrying a book titled How to Pray Like a Jew.

Mark Sofer,Israel’s Ambassador to India,told The Indian Express that anything to do with 26/11 was of interest to Israel because apart from Indians,the only other people to be specifically targeted were Jewish people and Israelis at the orthodox Chabad House in Colaba.

Investigators in India have not been able to conclusively establish how the 26/11 attackers from Pakistan found what was then a little-known Jewish centre located in a small alley in south Mumbai when few outside the Jewish community in Mumbai were aware of its existence. One new angle that is being probed is Headley,a Pakistani-born US citizen who made several trips to India and lived in Mumbai between 2006 and 2008.

“I think the book that he was carrying,How to Pray Like a Jew,I think that is undoubtedly the case,” Sofer said when asked if there was a possible link. “How important he was in the planning of 26/11,if at all,needs to be left to security agencies to look into,” he added.

“If it is true,it is part of the sophistication of the whole process of this attack. Somebody thinks that they can fool A,B and C by putting on a skullcap or say I am Jewish and carry a book which says How to Pray Like a Jew,” Sofer said. “But Israelis were targeted,so clearly we have an interest in what is going on and that’s not a secret. We would coordinate,we are coordinating.”

Israel believes Lashkar targeted Chabad House because it wanted to “destroy the India-Israel relationship” and also because Israel is part of a group of countries seen as enemies by Islamist extremists. “They thought it will ruin the ties between Israel and India,of course it is very warped logic,and if you ask me,the opposite happened,” Sofer said,adding the attack led to increased security cooperation including a visit to Israel by a team of police and security officials from Mumbai earlier this year.

Despite the attack,the number of Israelis visiting India had also gone up in 2009 and was expected to be between 50,000 and 55,000 this year compared to around 43,000 last year,Sofer said.

“I don’t know what has contributed to it but I’ll tell you what has not detracted from it,” Sofer said. “First of all,people feel a 100 per cent safe here in India. Yes,you have had a terrorist incident which attacked Jews but you don’t feel less safe in India because of that.”

“Number two,we understand in Israel what terror is,we understand that we mustn’t let terror govern our lives,” he said,adding that while the security perception had improved,there could never be a limit to how much it can be raised. “Mumbai was a wake up call for a number of people in a number of countries,a wake up call from hell.”

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