Headley- Will the extradition happen?

A couple of days back a New Delhi court took cognizance of the charge sheet filed against David Headley and also Tawwahur Rana in connection with the 26/11 attack. Immediately after this the topic regarding the extradition of both these men to India so that they could be tried under the Indian legal system.

India today is armed with a court order and very soon it would write to the United States of America seeking an extradition of the two men so that they could be tried in India. However the question is whether this would be a reality or is India simply going through the process more as a formality.

Sources say that an extradition is next to impossible under the given scenario. It was a well known fact that the trial against Headley at least would be conducted in absentia. His plea bargain arrangement made it clear that he shall not be extradited to either India, Pakistan or Denmark. While this is one of the arrangements he had entered into with the US authorities there is also another aspect to this case.

When the entire Headley issue began spilling out, India was desperate to lay their hands on him. After much deliberations and waiting it was agreed that he would be interviewed by the Indian agency, the National Investigating Agency. Under the system prevailing in the United States of America the accused is given the option of whether he would like to speak to any other investigating agency other than the one in the US itself. In the case of Headley, the NIA had a tough time as it was mandatory that he needed to be convinced first to speak with the Indian agency especially after he had entered into a plea bargain with the US. It was only once that he agreed to do the same were the Indians allowed to question him. However that too came at a price as he once again made it clear that he would speak and also reveal all only if there is no insistence that he is extradited.

Even in the case of Rana the case would remain the same. Although he is wanted for the offense committed in India, it is the US which had first shot at the trial. Before seeking an extradition, India would first need to question him. Moreover he cannot be brought down unless the trial against him is complete over there. Another issue that the NIA faces is that they can speak with Rana only if he wants to speak. In case he refuses then there is nothing that could be done about it even by the US as the law protects him. However there is one option that India has to seek his extradition and this would be a pure technicality. Headley has been charged under 12 counts in the US and this is what he had entered into a plea bargain for India would look to seek his extradition on the other counts on which a plea bargain has not been sought. Another option that is available is for India to state that when the plea bargain was entered into India was not taken on board despite him being an offender for a major offence on the Indian soil.

An extradition appears to be far fetched at the moment and it appears that India is just going through a formality. It is highly unlikely that even the US may agree to an extradition considering the assurance that was given to Headley at the time of the plea bargain. India will need to really push this issue legally as Headley does enjoy an immunity in terms of extradition. The US will need to consider this apart from fight a legal battle with Headley himself before any such assurance can be given. Moreover it is very likely that Headley would consider a legal option in case of any extradition offer by the United States.

What does the NIA do now in such an event? There is an option to fight the legal battle against Headley where he would not be present the procedure known as in-absentia. The statements which have been given to an Indian investigator can be used during the proceedings. India would also have to consider whether the proceedings from a foreign court could be used in an Indian court. Although there is no bar on something like this, it would still have to be examined as the accused cannot be extradited. However when the trial begins, the Indian law mandates that the accused be given an opportunity to defend the charges against him. This is mandatory under the Code of Criminal Procedure. In such an event, the trial may have to be conducted through video conferencing, legal experts say.

Advertisements

NIA’s poor record- Who is to blame?

Three years have gone by since the National Investigation Agency has been formed. The report card for India’s premier agency probing cases of terror does not look all that good, but the question that we must ask is whether the agency has been allowed to function in a manner that it ought to have.

In all the NIA is in charge of around 35 cases which also include the high profile David Headley probe. On paper if one looks at it the NIA has managed to solve just one case- the bomb explosion at a bus depot in Kozhikode, Kerala, in 2006. The other high profile cases that the NIA has on its hand are the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Delhi High Court blasts case among others.

When the NIA was formed after the horrific 26/11 attacks there was a great deal of hope and it was expected that it would solve each and every case pertaining to terrorism in no time. However that has not been the case and on many occasions it has been found that the NIA has been left clueless and not to mention the delay in cracking cases.

However it would be unfair to blame the NIA entirely for this slow progress rate. It has had its share of problems and more often than not it has found to be undoing a mess caused by shoddy investigators. The Mecca Masjid, Samjautha and Malegaon cases are a typical example of this. First the Muslims were arrested in these cases and now the investigations have taken a turn around. The NIA is too busy clearing this mess. When the NIA took over the files there was not an inkling as to who the real culprit was. First a process of discharging the innocent took place and only then did the real investigation begin. Any investigator worth his salt would point out that it is difficult to probe a case in which the accused has been given years together to flee. The main culprits in the above mentioned cases have had nearly 5 years to wipe out evidence, move out of the country and also mislead investigators thanks to the fact that the first investigators were too busy probing a completely wrong angle to the case.

Take the case of David Headley and also Tawwahur Rana. The NIA faced similar problems as they were at the mercy of the United States of America. All the information that could trickle by came out only when the US wanted it. Moreover the US had permitted Headley to enter into a plea bargain which was probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the NIA. Moreover after waiting for months they managed to get access and Headley refused to speak even a sentence more than what he had already told the FBI. Hence the entire case was built up based on what was already known.

Now coming to the fresh cases such as the 13/7 and also the Delhi High Court blasts. Not much progress was really made and even today the investigators remain clueless. At first the NIA was roped in to probe the 13/7 case. But then they ran into problems with the Maharashtra ATS as a result of which the NIA backed out. After all these tussles that took place almost three months had passed and investigators started from scratch and the worst part is that both agencies had different information which was never really shared thanks to this fight. Even in the Delhi High Court blasts despite the government stating that the NIA would probe this case, the Delhi police probed this case simultaneously. Once again the information was not shared and this led to a hazy probe.

Radha Vinod Raju who was the first chief of the NIA had said in an earlier interview with rediff.com that the cases taken by the NIA are tough to crack. The NIA needs to collect evidence before taking action and should not arrest suspects only to deflect pressure.  The NIA comprises officers who have had exposure to terrorism and terror-related case. They are a committed lot and there is sincerity in their approach towards work. The output of their effort clearly reflects their enthusiasm. In this respect, it’s the best investigating agency that India has seen so far.
C D Sahay, former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing points out that the NIA is very essential to deal with crimes with ramifications all over the country.

For it to succeed it must be empowered and enabled not only through federal legislations, but by a change of heart amongst all investigating agencies across the country. In Delhi and also the 13/7 case there was an issue about dealing with cases. The NIA remained a spectator. This territorial approach will not allow any organisation to function properly.

We should try out the American experience where the agency is involved in every aspect of the investigation right from collection of evidence to prosecution. Sadly in India the bureaucracy gets involved in a turf war where none should exist. I really hope I am proven wrong for the betterment of the system.

NIA files 26/11 chargesheet

The National Investigation Agency after probing the 26/11 case for nearly two years has filed its chargesheet against David Headley and others before the Special Court in Patiala House, New Delhi today.

The chargesheet also names Hafiz Saeed, Tawwahur Rana, Ilyas Kashmiri, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi among others.

The chargesheet also comprises the names of Abdul Rehman Hashmi, Major Iqbal, Major Samir Ali and Sajid Majid . The common charge against all these persons is that they were waging a war against the country and also under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Now with the chargesheet being filed, the trial against these persons although in absentia could officially begin.

Headley- First for the cash and then the ideology

A Pro Publica investigation termed David Headley as a double agent working for both the CIA and the ISI. While India’s National Investigating Agency continues to look for more information on Headley, the fact is that the information roll on the man has come to a stand still.

The question that India is trying to answer is whether Headley was serving both the CIA and the ISI simultaneously? The NIA’s version of this story is that Headley moved towards the ISI after being dumped by the CIA. Headley was always a rogue and enjoyed the high life and hence did all his work for money. The ideology which he has been talking about is not entirely true and even during the NIA interrogation of the man it was revealed that he was more into it for the money.

Headley started off by passing on information to the CIA regarding the happenings in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. However a couple of years later, the CIA decided to dump him since they felt he was turning rogue and did not have his loyalties in one place. He got in contact with the drug lords in Afghanistan and started working closely with them. At this point the CIA did not find him to be utility and dropped him.

However what Headley had possessed was a set of skills which attracted the ISI who were watching him all through. He managed to get away as he had the CIA tag with him and even the ISI was afraid to act against him. However once he was dumped by the CIA, the ISI was quick to swoop in and utilise his services.

The ISI used the services of Sajid Mir to rope in Headley into their fold. Mir was considered to be a specialist at roping in foreign agents and hence he was assigned the task of speaking with Headley. Headley’s role in the ISI did not commence immediately with big assignments. They tested him and continued to seek information about the US for which he was paid money. He continued to be an informant. However the ISI was cautious and kept a tab on him as they did not want him to turn rogue. They brainwashed him and made him believe that he was doing this for the community. This probably was the turning point for Headley and he decided to become a loyal soldier of both the ISI and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

By this time he had gone completely out of the CIA radar. He was never perceived as a threat to the US. The ISI was however cautious while dealing with Headley and had specifically told him not to rub the US agencies on the wrong side. They were aware that holding an American citizenship and also a passport from the same country gave him a great deal of immunity which helped in his travel to India. Investigators say that the US knew about the existence of this man, but did not perceive him as a big threat. What the US was unaware of was the ideological turn that Headley took. They never expected him to become a loyal servant and always believed that he would do anything for money.

Headley interacted a lot during these days with the likes of Mir and also Ilyas Kashmiri. The interest that he had with money had gradually reduced a great deal and he began speaking about the need of being a devout Muslim and attacking enemy nations particularly India. Even during the questioning by the NIA, he showed utter contempt towards India. He had also gone on to say that he had no problems with the Indians but thanks to incidents such as the Babri Masjid or the Godhra carnage he had begun to hate the system as a result of which he agreed to help Pakistan carry out the 26/11 attack.

After severing his ties with the US in the late 2004, he went completely out of the radar and all those who had dealt with him in the past thought he had become history. None of them even realised what threat this man posed and the kind of skills he had to lead a massive attack such as 26/11 which claimed over 150 lives.

Sources in the Indian investigating team say that today getting him for another round of questioning is next to an impossible task. The extent of information that we have managed to get out of him ends here and it looks like a distant possibility whether we would be able to question him once again. We have been depending on questioning Tawwahur Rana, but that it likely to take a lot of time as the matter is still pending before the court. There are a couple of unanswered questions such as the use of local help and the people Headley met in India and these answers could possibly be given by Tawwahur Rana.

Another appeal and no Headley again

In the backdrop of information pouring out that the Government of India was never serious about the extradition of David Headley, it is also interesting to note that the special leave petition before the Supreme Court of India in the 26/11 case which incurred a loss of Rs 155 crore, 56 lakh, 77 thousand and 105 too does not make any mention of this name.The state of Maharashtra in its appeal againgst the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin spell out various points but do not make a single mention about the role of David Headley in the case. The Headley-26/11 connection is almost an open and shut case and it is extremely clear today that he had a big part to play in this horrific attack.The battle in the Supreme Court is expected to be a keenly contested one although the state in its appeal do not add even a single additional point in their defence of making Fahim and Saba as accused in the attack.A reading of the appeal gives the impression that the state has stuck to the same points and their primary ground is that they are aggrieved by the impuged orders of both the trial court and the confirmation of the same by the Bombay High Court.Gopal Subramanyam who is representing the state in this case says that all points would not be disclosed at the moment and more would be revealed during the course of arguments before the Supreme Court of India.The special leave petition or the appeal before the Supreme Court continues to rely heavily on the maps that have been found on Fahim and Saba. It speaks about how the two had come from Lucknow and prepared maps to facilitate this attack. It further goes on to speak about how the preparations carried out by these two men had resulted in various incidents at CST, Cama, the Taj, Nariman House, Trident and a host of other places on that night. The state goes on to say that the actions of these men who were not part of the attack that night resulted in the loss of 166 lives and also caused damage to property both state and private worth Rs 155 crore, 56 lakh, 77 thousand and 105.The appeal relies very heavily on the statement by prosecution witness 160, Nooruddin Shaikh who says that it was in his presence that the maps were handed over by Fahim to Sabahuddin and also the map looks like the same map which was in the possession of slain terrorist, Abu Islamil. The appeal also adds that it is evident from the interrogation of Shaikh the role played by both Saba and Fahim and it was on the basis of his statements that the duo who were arrested in the CrPF Rampur case were brought down for interogation in connection with the 26/11 case.The appeal adds that the duo did not personally attack the targets on 26/11, but had provided maps so that the attack could be executed. It further goes on to state that Fahim had prepared the maps in his own handwriting and had gone to Nepal after that before handing over the maps to his masters who were from Pakistan.Further the appeal relies on the statement by the then Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Manpreet Vohra. The statements by Vohra at that time was that the passport with Fahim was fake. The statements also mentioned that the same was issued by the Pakistani authorities and it was a fake passport that Fahim had been carrying.Advocate for Sabhauddin, Ejaz Naqvi informed that the state has deliberately supressed facts regarding Headley. We will object to the appearence of Gopal Subramanyam in this case. It is clear that he had prepared the questionnaire for Headley when the latter was interviewed by the NIA. He is aware of the role played by Headley and yet decides not to mention him in this appeal. Moreover his appereance is fatal to the case of my client since we have filed a case against Headley too stating that he should be brought on record in this appeal. It has been proven and accepted by the courts in the US that he was the man who carried out the survey of the targets and yet they omit him from the appeal.Sources in the NIA however said that it is not fair to state that they were not serious about the extradition of Headley. The case against Headley and Rana will be a seperate one and that has been intentionally done. There were practical issues where Headley was concerned and his plea bargain made it clear that we could not extradite him. We cannot comment on why he has been left out of the state appeal, but would like to add that the case of the NIA will be a seperate one since we have conducted the probe seperately on Headley. The chargesheet will be filed soon as we await some documents and once that it made available, the chargesheet will be filed.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

More evidence, more delays and the Headley case

The Home Ministry a couple of days back informed that the probe regarding David Headley has been completed. However there continues to be a slight delay where the filing of the chargesheet is concerned.

Sources informed that the case of David Headley is quite an easy one when compared to the Tawwahur Rana case. Headley’s case largely rests on the confession made by him and this has helped investigating agencies to build up a strong case. However today the NIA is waiting for some more documents from the United States of America and only once that reaches them will the chargesheet be filed.

A source in the NIA said that the emails and other transcripts used by Headley are with them. However the biggest problem in order to make it a water tight case would be the voice samples which unfortunately are in Pakistan. It is not so much of an issue to file the chargesheet against Headley since the case against him individually is a water tight one. The issue remains the others especially those in the Pakistan establishment who were connected with Headley and this is where the reliance on the other countries come into the picture.

The NIA says that Pakistan has agreed in principle to hand over the voice samples. The case to this effect is in court and a lot would depend on that. It is to be seen how much an influence the ISI would have on the judicial procedures, because the agency would try its best to avoid these voice samples getting out Pakistan since the entire focus would be on them. The US will however play a vital role in this exercise and it is to be seen whether they would lead this exercise to persuade Pakistan to hand over the voice samples to India. The NIA says that it is however not too hopeful that it would get the voice samples, but they would continue to make efforts.

The NIA has with it all the details regarding the trips made by Headley to India. The persons who he met with and those who he had sought help from. However the evidence has not been too forthcoming on any of the local contacts that Headley had been in touch with and the fact of the matter is that no one really knew what he was up to. There were many persons with whom Headley had interacted in India, but during the trial all these persons will be turned into witnesses who would in turn have to testify against Headley.

There is a confession by Headley in which he speaks about his India tour. The issue however is that the Indian law is a bit linient towards persons who have confessed to their crime. However this would not be sufficient for the NIA since they would want a harsh order against him. Although it would not be possible to sentence him since he has a plea bargain not to be shifted out of the US, they would still like to make a strong statement on this case since this is really their first Big case.

There are aspects of Headley’s confession which do not make the role of the Pakistani establishment very clear. In fact he has been edgy and chosen to avoid a lot of things. This is where the real role of the NIA began and they started to build up their own case with regard to Headley’s association with the Pakistani establishment. While bringing out this aspect during the trial in India, the court would realise that Headley’s confession reeks in malafide and the order against him would be strong.

In this regard India does find the need to wait for more evidence from the US and if possible from Pakistan. They have sent letters to Pakistan, but at the end of it would request the US to pressurise it to get them that bit of evidence regarding the voice samples which is very crucial to the case.

NIA sources say that unless and until there is clarity regarding this aspect they would not want to go ahead with the chargesheet. We want one final chargesheet and do not want to file one immediately and then go in for an additional one.

Another issue that the NIA has been discussing is that they would want the Rana and the Headley case to be part of the same chargesheet. Their cases are inter connected and their offenses committed in India are inter-linked and it is not as though both have been on separate assignments.

The NIA says where Rana is concerned the documents are expected to take a while longer. Moreover they have not managed to get access to him as yet and that would be possible only once his appeal is complete. Rana has only played the role of a second fiddle to Headley. Although we would prefer to file the chargesheet against the two of them together, we would still take a final call on that depending on how long the Rana case takes. If we get the remainder of the Headley documents early and find that the Rana case is taking too long then we may just go ahead with the chargesheet and the Rana aspect could be added in the additional chargesheet attached to the main one.

As of now the case that has been booked against Headley is the one pertaining to waging a war against the country. He has already pleaded guilty on 12 charges. However the case against Rana on conspiracy was dismissed and an appeal is on at the moment.

Indian Mujahideen-Tracking the enemy within

Indian Mujahideen- Tracking the enemy within is a book which deals with the recent acts of terror which have exploded the myth that Indian youth is insulated from the global terrorism phenomenon and had little time for extremism. The communal riots post the 1992 incident, the rise of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the mutation of a section of aspiring Muslim youth into terrorists with the help of forces across the border.
Shishir Gupta the  Editor, Express News Service of The Indian Express Newspaper who is the author of this book says that this book deals with the various trends of Home Grown Jihad in India apart from a host of other issues on the subject.
The story of home-grown jihadists would have been skewed had it not been for the testimonies of David Coleman Headley and Sarfaraz Nawaz on the involvement of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence, top Lashkar-e-Taiba leadership, the Al Qaida and the Karachi project, whose demon child the Indian Mujahideen is. This book is the first-ever attempt to link up jihadists all over India and trace their linkages with terrorists based in countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
In this interview with rediff.com, Gupta discusses in detail the various aspects of terrorism that has rocked our country, the future trends and a host of other issues pertaining to the subject.

Sir, could you tell us what your book is about?
Basically the book picks up various trends of Home Grown jihad in India. It is all about the growth of Home Grown jihad in India and its inter-section with the conservative Salafi ideology. Further the book also deals with how funding for terrorism and the ideology got mixed up and it joins the dots on the various incidents of terror in the past one decade. It gives us details about how all this took place and also looks at the various revealations made by David Headley and also Sarfaraz Nawaz. Further the book also deals with the manner in which all these cases of terror were probed in India and also goes on to point out some instances where investigations were not carried out in a proper manner. Each of these incidents are analysed.
Further it also gives us a full fledged picture of the Headley confessions and also what the Karachi Project is. On the 26/11 front it deals with the various players such as Sajid Mir and the other players in this plot. The book charts the growth of home grown jihad in India and the influence of conservative Islam or Salafism along with funding from Pakistan and Middle-East on already radicalised SIMI youth in India. It joins the dots as far as terrorist incidents of the past decade are concerned with detailed insight in the support given to local Indian youth through testimonies of David Coleman Headley, Khawaja Amjad Sheikh and Sarfarz Nawaz. The book gives insight into Abdur Rehman Saeed’s so-called Karachi project, a joint venture of ISI-LeT, and the filure of the Indian law enforcement agencies in detecting the tale of retribution and counter-retribution being palyed out between Muslim and Hindu extremists. It enphasises on the need for police to properly investigate terror cases and not come up with tailor made accusations or the real culprits like in the cases of blasts in Makkah Masjid, Sarojni Nagar and local trains will never be found.

Today there appears to be a lull in India where activities of terrorists are concerned. Do you think groups such as the Indian Mujahideen are on the backfoot?
I would not say that the Indian Mujahideen is dead and neither would I agree that it is on the back foot. It is slowly re-grouping and that is my understanding of it. Two days ago there was a report of the NSG regarding the IED which was found outside the Delhi High Court. The device had ammonium nitrate, grease, wax and detonators. In this particular case the detonators had mal functioned. Look at the September 19 2010 incident where a car had been burnt. There again the detonators had failed. Had these bombs gone off properly then it would have been a major incident. This is an indicator that there is a group which is still active

Indian Mujahideen according to the Intelligence Bureau is an off shoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Did the ban on SIMI lead to the emergence of a more dreaded outfit?
SIMI was basically the feeder cadre. I am not saying that everyone in the SIMI is out to kill people. There was an element within the SIMI which was radicalised. Safdar Nagori would have seen the Hindu aggression post Babri and Gujarat. There was an element under pressure in this group which was under pressure and some got mutated into this.
There was already a critical mass in India in the form of radicalised SIMI cadre, which got mutated into IM under pressure from Hindu assertiveness and support from ISI and its sponsored groups with significant funding from the

For the ISI a home grown outfit was always important in order to keep focus away from Pakistan and groups such as the IM and SIMI provided this solution. If the police are to be believed then the IM is down and out as of today. In such a situation what happens to the concept of home grown Jihad?
The basic ideology is to destablise India and this they will continue to do irrespective of the name of the terrorist organisation. The core continues to be SIMI and if you look at the activities in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh there are still certain groups which are active. Take the case of T Nasir who was first part of the lashkar-e-Tayiba and then the Indian Mujahideen. Despite him changing outfits the intention always remained the same for him. There continues to remain a huge dissatisfied lot and these are the people who will continue to destablise India. The ISI has always been looking for such elements and have even tried to penentrate into the naxal movement. The objective to destablise will always remain.

The big wigs of the IM such as Abdus Subhan continue to be on the run. Do you think that men such as these are capable of re-building the outfit again?
My understanding of him is different. It has been claimed that he is behind almost all the incidents undertaken by the Indian Mujahideen. Subhan is not on the CBI’s most wanted lost. There is no red corner notice on him. He is a friend of Nagori. He had an ideology and was a die hard SIMI cadre. Till 2008 I have nothing on paper to  say that he was a terrorist. Once the likes of Nagori and the rest were arrested we see him getting closer to Bhatkal and it is said that he sought revenge for the Gujarat riots. Both he and Safdar were not talking about bombs. They were talking about shooting incidents. To say he is the king pin is not correct. The likes of Amir Reza Khan, Ilyas Kashmiri and Sajid Mir are all very much around and these men are very dangerous. Then there is also Dr Shahnawaz who is equally important in this outfit who continues to be out.

What do you make of the alleged death of Riyaz Bhatkal? Do you think this news is true?
Now I have tried to cross check it in various places. We are not getting much about his movements. So there could be a possibility of him being bumped off. But the point is there is no confirmation. Amjad Khwaja Sheikh’s interrogation confirmed the killing of Shahid Bilal in Karachi. So till such time there is a substantive corroboration of Riyaz Bhatkal’s demise, one should keep their fingers crossed.

Which states do you think cadres of the IM would utilize today to re-build their organization?
South India is the next base. Kerala is worrisome,  Karnataka will have a bad mix since the naxalism is spreading out there. Then again there is Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh always has a political element to it. However my key concern will always remain Kerala.

Speaking of the 26/11 attack, do you think these home grown outfits had any role to play at least in helping the likes of David Headley survey their targets?
It is very hard to swallow what both the IB and the police say. They say that there was no local support. Looking at the scope and bandwidth of the attack it is clear that there were local players. However these local players had limited roles to play If you look at the various reports you get a feel that there were locals who played a part but all through never knew about the scope and the magnitude of the attack. There are a lot of aspects we never knew regarding this attack. Had it not been for the Americans, we would have never know about David Headley.

The Gulf angle to Indian terrorism is something that we cannot rule out. Do you think India needs to be more assertive while dealing with the cadres of the IM settled in these nations?
The point in this is that we need to build up developmental and economic leverage with these countries. There is a lot more we need to do regarding this. Last year there was an alert from the Home Ministry regarding three persons, but they were allowed to go. At the end of the day if we do not take this issue lying down then those countries will start to take us seriously.

Maj Iqbal-David Headley & the money trail

Tracking down Major Iqbal will be a tough task ahead for Indian investigating agencies probing the David Headley link to the 26/11 attack. While the Chicago court which tried Tawwahur Rana didn’t make any noise about the likes of Major Iqbal and their involvement in this attack, the National Investigating Agency says that the money transaction between the Major and Headley will be a crucial link to the investigation.

Even as Pakistan continues to deny the existence of a Major Iqbal, the NIA is sure that this is the man who has played a major role in the attack. The money trail for the recee conducted by Headley is an important link in this case. This angle to the probe brings back the question regarding fake currency and how it continues to dominate each and every possible terrorist funding.

Investigations into the Headley link to the 26/11 attack show that the Major had handed over 25000 dollars and also fake Indian currency of the like sum to Headley when he was surveying targets for the attack. The attacks were carried out on high profile targets and hence Major Iqbal of the ISI wanted to ensure that Headley moved around with the elite. The account by Headley is a testimony to the fact as to how he moved around with the elite when going about his job.

Headley got in touch with customers at Moksh, he stayed over at the Taj and all this has cost him a lot of money investigators point out.

The money which was transferred to Headley was through a Hawala transaction. A certain amount of the money was handed over to him personally while the rest was arranged to be delivered on arrival at India.

Headley who was paid in dollars did not have to go through the ordeal of exchanging fake currency. The fake currency is usually transported into India and then exchanged with a point man. This now throws open an interesting challenge to the investigators since it becomes obvious that there was another person in India who went about doing this job for Headley. The money had landed in from Pakistan and then the fake currency was changed at a 2:1 ratio. The interesting part would be who exactly changed this money for Headley which once again throw open the interesting question regarding a local link.

The investigating agencies have put under the scanner several hawala operators and touts who change money for terrorist operations. There is an indepth investigation on as to who in particular carried out this job for Headley, sources also point out.

Now coming back to Major Iqbal, it will require some expertise to nab this person. While the money trail would be one way of proving the existence of this man and also his location, the other ways would involve deriving voice samples and also another round of interrogation of Headley.

India will exercise all the options available to them. Indian investigators say that the voice samples which they have been seeking from Pakistan may not come after all. This places reliance on the law suit filed by the family of the slain Israeli couple where the ISI is under the scanner. India which is planning on joining the law suit is looking to put forth a strong case against Iqbal so that the court does take cognisance of the same and summons him to New York. However India will be cautious before it joins that suit in New York since it would be a party to the suit only if it has a lot of evidence in the case. It should not become a wasted exercise is what a source in the Home Ministry says about India’s participation in the law suit.

The voice samples which Pakistan had promised to provide India is another option that the NIA is exploring. While the pressure to get the voice samples have not worked either through diplomatic or judicial pressure, India is expecting the US to play a more crucial part in this. India would seek the assistance of Pakistan to get the voice samples as it is necessary for the investigation, sources also added.

National Investigating Agency sources say that they would be exploring the option of interrogating Headley once again, considering that the US has said that it could be a possibility if India did make that demand. The last time around the questions were pretty general in nature and this time it is expected to be more specific. There is an absolute need to nail the likes of Major Iqbal and Headley is the man who can detail him and help out Indian investigators.

Kashmiri may not be dead

The death of Ilyas Kashmiri continues to remain a mystery and as per agencies in India, he is still alive since there is no credible confirmation regarding his death. Two weeks back, news had broken out stating that Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a drone attack. Barring the Harkat-ul-Jihadi, no other agency including the United States of America were able to confirm the news and it remains a status quo till date.
Indian agencies when contacted say that there are three aspects to the news relating to Ilyas Kashmiri. Following the David Headley revealations at the Chicago court, the heat was on Kashmiri. Moreover the United States of America too had made it clear that after the death of Osama Bin Laden, the man most wanted on their list was Kashmiri. The US had also gone to the extent of telling Pakistan to act against Kashmiri.
Once this directive was given to Pakistan, the ISI found itself in an extremely difficult situation since they could not afford the death of another high profile terrorist after Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan following the death of Laden has already been facing the heat from terrorist groups. The death of Kashmiri at the hands of US forces would have only meant that the retaliatory measures would have been terrible for Pakistan.
According to Indian agencies the death of Kashmiri appears to be a rumour either floated by the ISI or Kashmiri himself. Had the US drones killed Kashmiri, they would not have hesitated to declare it since it would have been another feather in their cap in their war on terror.
Both the ISI and Kashmiri were aware that the US were closing in on him. Hence the best way to have avoided any such onslaught was to float such a rumour regarding his death.
At first it was believed that the ISI may have killed him. This could have been easily true considering the fact that Kashmiri has been saying that the Al-Qaeda has managed to infiltrate into the Pakistan army which ultimately resulted in the success of the Mehran attack. However the intercepts now trickling in suggest that the plan to eliminate Kashmiri was called off and the ISI managed to force a truce with the man. Indian agencies feel that the truce between the two would have dealt with outflow of information and Kashmiri could have been told to remain silent. In addition to this, Kashmiri is still an important man for the ISI since he is the one who trains new cadres who can carry out precision attacks.
This prompted Kashmiri himself to float the rumour regarding himself stating that he was dead. Through his parent outfit HuJI, he attempted to confirm the news to the rest of the world. Although none were sure of this, the heat surely died down and resources were spent in confirming the news than tracking him down. This gave him ample time to change his hideout.
Indian agencies say that this is for the second time Kashmiri and the ISI managed to hood wink the world. Similar news regarding his death had emerged a couple of years back too. However at that time even the US forces made the mistake of confirming his death only to realise that he was alive and had very well managed to change his base.
According to the intelligence bureau, deaths of high profile terrorists at the hands of the establishment is nothing new. The ISI tends to eliminate persons who start generating heat which ultimately falls on Pakistan from the rest of the world. There are two more similar instances regarding the death of terrorists. Shahid Bilal of the Hyderabad twin blasts fame was eliminated by the ISI when it was realised that his hiding in Pakistan was doing no good for them. Although the father of Bilal confirmed his death after seeing photographs of Bilal on the internet, the case is not the same for Riyaz Bhatkal, the Indian Mujahideen big wig. There was a claim that he was killed by members of the Chota Rajan gang, but till date there is no confirmation either from our own agencies nor from Pakistan. Indian agencies say that these are the types of games that the ISI plays in a bid to reduce heat. It is extremely difficult to get such things confirmed since Pakistan has a lot at stake either to confirm or even deny the news.

Rana trial- the men who got away

Sajid Mir. Photo courtesy: Domain-b
The much hyped up trial of Tawwahur Rana has finally come to a close and one could say with confidence it did not end the way in which many would have expected it to end.

Indian agencies have been saying that the bigger disappointment regarding this trial has not just been the acquittal of Rana. The more important aspects with regard to the likes of Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal not even finding a mention is what India is really disappointed about.

Getting some clarity regarding Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal was extremely crucial and all hopes were on this court at Chicago to give that clarity. We wonder why David Headley stopped short of speaking more about these two men who he repeatedly interacted with during his mission, an official in the Intelligence Bureau said.

Rana’s acquittal has hurt India, but it is not the end of the road, since we do have our own independent investigation. However it was extremely crucial for the Court to have made some observations on Mir and Iqbal. These are men who are part of the Pakistani establishment and more importantly they are hiding in that country and we all know what the issues are when it comes to accessing those men.

Going by the testimony of Headley where he starts off with promise and then back tracks, it only goes on to show what a skilled and trained operative he was. At the end of it he only said what he already had and has not diverted even an inch.

The IB says that the entire 26/11 attack was sponsored by the Pakistani establishment. It is one thing when we deal with individuals such as Rana and Headley. The job was made easier since they were in the United States of America which in turn assures us of a chance of questioning them. It would have been a different story altogether if they were holed up in Pakistan.

While dealing with matters pertaining to terrorism, it becomes extremely difficult when a particular country is directly involved in the attack. While India does realise the role played by the establishment in this attack, it was extremely important that even the United States did. Major Iqbal is a part of the establishment while Sajid Mir is a global terrorist. These are the kind of people who need to be dealt with international pressure and this verdict would have been the idea platform to deal with such persons. Moreover it was important for the court to recognise the role played by these men and had that been done, then the case for India would have been easier.

The likes of Mir and Iqbal do figure in the dossiers that India has sent to Pakistan. Today Pakistan can simply reject these names on the pretext that there has been no finding by a US court. It is also a well known fact that they would subscribe to a view of the US court rather than India’s demand.

The fact that these very important names were not mentioned at the end of the trial literally gives them a clean chit and only strengthens them to go about their activities. Now India will have put up a very strong case and also implead itself at the law suit in New York to prove the guilt of the ISI. There is a lot of home work that the Indian investigators will have to do in order to nail the ISI link to the case. Also India could hope that there would be a mention about these persons when Rana goes on appeal.

Speaking of Mir and Iqbal, the former comes across as a more dangerous person. A person like Iqbal will not be used for another attack since Pakistan cannot let the names of its officers come out again. However Mir is the one that the world needs to worry about, the IB says. He has a very selective set of skills which has helped him emerge into a global terrorist. He will continue to nurture many more David Headleys and he has been assigned a very key job to ensure that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba turns into a global outfit.