Is Lashkar-e-Taiba Going Global?

By Joseph Straw

Charges that an American scouted targets in Mumbai, India for Lakshar-e-Taibi’s (LeT) 2008 attack that killed 166 people has Time Magazine asking whether the regional terror group is expanding to join al Qaeda on the world stage:

LeT's desire to strike at the West was clear in the Mumbai attack, whose targets — two five-star hotels and a Jewish center — were places in which it would be sure to kill many Westerners. Six Americans were among the victims. "Mumbai showed that the LeT has adopted the targets of the global Islamic jihad: 'Crusaders and Zionists,' " says [former CIA terrorism expert and Brookings Institution analyst Bruce] Riedel. The…case, he says, shows that LeT is now trying to launch transnational operations.

Conversely, Indian English-language newspaper The Hindu reports that LeT leadership did not support suspect David Headley’s desire for the group to attack the Denmark offices of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that elicited outrage in the Muslim world when it published a cartoon representation of the prophet Mohammad in 2005:

Early on, Headley believed the “Mickey Mouse Project” had the Lashkar’s support. Late this summer though, the Lashkar lost interest in the Danish plot. Lashkar commander Sajid Mir, who played a key role in organising the Mumbai attacks, e-mailed Headley on July 3, asking to meet with him to discuss “some new investment plans”: code, the FBI says, for an attack in India.

Headley was arrested in October at Chicago-O’Hare International Airport when federal agents caught him carrying surveillance photographs of the Jyllands-Posten offices. Monday, the U.S. Justice Department charged him with surveilling sites for LeT in advance of the Mumbai attacks.

The Hindu also reported Tuesday that the Indian government plans to charge Headley in the Mumbai attacks, while The New York Times reported that the FBI has sent a team to India to investigate the case, and is also sending one to Pakistan.

Headley, 49, was born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C. to a Pakistani father and an American mother. According to the Times, Headley changed his name to facilitate crossing the U.S. border. In 1988 he was convicted of trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S. from Pakistan, but cooperated with investigators and after serving a two-year sentence returned to Pakistan to collect criminal intelligence for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Headley is cooperating with investigations into the current cases, according to the Justice Department.



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