NEWS

American Citizen Arrested for Involvement in Mumbai Attack

By Matthew Harwood

A Chicago businessman already charged with plotting to attack a Danish newspaper has also been charged with helping to plot the Mumbai terrorist attack last November.

The Justice Department yesterday charged David C. Headley, 49, with casing targets in Mumbai for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist organization, for two years prior to the November 2008 attack. According to the The New York Times:

In the complaint, prosecutors said Mr. Headley received training from Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is dedicated to ending Indian rule of Kashmir, on several occasions from February 2002 to December 2003. After he was instructed by the group to conduct surveillance in Mumbai, the complaint says, he made five trips there from 2006 to 2008. Each time, he took photos and videos of various targets, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, the Leopold Café, the Nariman House and a Mumbai train station.

The information supplied by Headley helped 10 terrorist commandoes murder approximately 170 people, including 6 Americans, over a three-day period. All but one of the attackers were killed by Indian security forces. The attack has ratcheted up tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan.

Headley has been in federal custody since October when Chicago's Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested him for conspiring to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten,  which published the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. The cartoons caused widespread outrage among Muslims in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, which led to protests, riots, and death in some countries. Also arrested and charged in the conspiracy was Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani native and Canadian citizen with business interests in Chicago, New York, and Toronto. Rana was not charged in the Mumbai attack.

The case of Headley, an American citizen, using his citizenship to attack foreign targets has shaken up the conventional wisdom inside U.S. counterterrorism, reports The Washington Post.

Headley and Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana are suspected Islamist militants charged not with targeting the United States, but with staging foreign operations from relative anonymity on American soil. Their profile is a fresh one, and it is being viewed by U.S. authorities with alarm.

One counterterrorism official described as "eye-opening" an investigation that concluded the two men worked with two Pakistan-based terrorist organizations allied with al-Qaeda, Lashkar-i-Taiba and Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami. It is a reminder, others said, that al-Qaeda or its imitators continue to try to build a network of operatives inside the United States.

The case "stands our counterterrorism approach on its head," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairman of a Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence. "We've been looking for people who want to attack us, whether foreign or U.S. persons, in the United States. We haven't really been looking at U.S. persons who want to attack other countries."

According to the Justice Department statement, Headley has been charged with 12 crimes: "six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, to provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to Lashkar, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India."

Through his attorneys, Headley gave the Justice Department authorization to disclose that he is cooperating with federal  investigations into both the Danish newspaper and Mumbai terror plots.


♦ Photo of room burned during terrorist assault at the Taj Mahal Hotel by Nicholas/WikiMediaCommons

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