November 9, 2009 5:03:35 am
As Union Home Secretary G K Pillai confirmed that David Coleman Headley,arrested by the FBI for plotting a major terror attack in India at the behest of the Lashkar-e-Toiba,had visited the country,including Mumbai,several times,official sources said the government has now decided on prior clearances for visas to American citizens of Pakistani origin.
Sources said that Headley,a Pakistani national who acquired US citizenship after changing his name from Daood Gilani,travelled to India on business visas nine times between 2006 and 2009.
And Pillai,responding to queries from reporters today,said: We do know that Headley had visited India a number of times. That is being investigated… He has been in Mumbai and some other places.
Security agencies are looking into Headleys visits to several cities and say it is too early to say whether these were linked to the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai.
Official sources said Headley was suspected to have set-up an extensive network,particularly in Maharashtra,Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh,using the cover of a businessman.
Although the government is awaiting the return of Intelligence officials who had gone to interrogate Headley and his associate Tahawwur Hussain Rana,alarm bells are already ringing in the internal security establishment with immigration records being dug out to get hold of the full picture.
As a first step,the government,sources said,will inform the Americans that visas to its nationals of Pakistani origin will only be given after prior clearances. The government believes that Daood Gilani deliberately acquired a Christian name and American passport to avoid detection in India.
Headley was arrested last month at Chicagos OHare airport as he prepared to board a flight to Philadelphia,intending to travel to Pakistan.
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