Headley testifies, says two earlier hits on Mumbai failed

08 February 2016

Pakistan-based terrorists attempted to attack Mumbai twice before the 26/11 strikes that killed 166 people, but failed in both earlier attempts, key accused and Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley told a Mumbai court on Monday.

The first attempt to strike India's financial capital was made in September 2008 but the boat used by extremists to reach Mumbai's shores hit rocks in the ocean, Headley said during a deposition. All weapons and explosives on board were lost but the terrorists survived.

The same group of terrorists made a second attempt a month later in October but failed again.

In his deposition through video conference from a US jail, which began at 7 am, Headley said that he was a ''true follower of LeT'' and came to India eight times  - seven before the terror attack on 26 November 2008 and once after that.

Headley, who is currently serving 35 years prison sentence in the US for his role in the terror attacks, also said he changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006 so that he could enter India with a US identity and set up business.

''I applied for change in name on 5 February 2006 in Philadelphia. I changed my name to David Headley to get a new passport under that name. I wanted a new passport so that I could enter India with an American identity.

''After I got a new passport I disclosed it to my colleagues in LeT of which one of them was Sajid Mir, the person whom I was dealing with. The objective for coming to India was to set up an office / business so that I can live in India. Before the first visit, Sajid Mir gave me instructions to make a general video of Mumbai,'' Headley told the court.

Headley also said that in his Indian visa application he had furnished all ''wrong'' information ''to protect his cover''. He reportedly visited India many times between 2006 and 2008, drew maps, took video footage and scouted several targets for the attacks including the Taj Hotel, Oberoi Hotel and Nariman House.

His reconnaissance provided vital information for the 10 LeT terrorists and their handlers, who launched the attack.

Headley, an American of Pakistani origin, has been an LeT member since 2002. He told the Mumbai court last December when he was first produced via video conferencing that he was ready to depose and turn approver in the 26/11 trials if he was pardoned. The court granted this and accepted him as a prosecution witness.

''The conspiracy was hatched outside India no direct evidence is there so far for the offence of criminal conspiracy. In this case fortunately for the prosecution, David Coleman Headley has willingly decided to unfold the conspiracy which was hatched outside India,'' the court said.

Headley had also turned approver in the US in the trial against his former partner and friend Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani Canadian operative of the LeT. This helped him get a lenient sentence and a promise that he would not be sent to India or any other country to face trial. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison by the US court.

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