No ‘Samjautha’ between MP cops & NIA

Photo courtesy: Sify
The National Investigating Agency has a tough task ahead as it continues its investigation of the Samjautha blasts which left nearly 60 persons dead. Like the rest of the agencies which are not investigating, but reinvestigating the various cases such as Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid, the Samjautha blasts case too falls under the same bracket.

The biggest problem that the NIA faces today is that two very crucial persons alleged to be related to this case are dead. The name of Sunil Joshi has been doing the rounds for quite some time and does find a mention on several occasions in the Swami Aseemanand confession. The other name that has now cropped up is that of Ramprasad Kalouta from Madhya Pradesh.

Two days back the NIA had visited a village called Giroda in Madhya Pradesh to find out more about the death of Kalouta. Earlier his death which had been dismissed as a suicide has now taken another turn with investigators believing that it could have been a case of murder.

Investigations so far have led to the fact that both Kalouta and Joshi were linked. It is said that Kalouta had helped Joshi undertake the Samjautha blasts of 2007. They are also trying to find out whether Kalouta had helped Joshi with the other blasts which have been mentioned in the Swami Aseemanand confession. Sources say that at first it was made out that Kalouta had committed suicide as he was involved in a financial dispute and a case to this effect was on. However further investigations showed that he had been murdered and his body thrown near a railway track.

The name of Kalouta first cropped up during the time of the failed Nanded operation. There was a major swoop down at that point of time and the police had managed to pick up four persons in connection with that blast. The perpetrators of this operation were worried at that point of time and even wanted to disguise the entire operation. From the area of operation the police had also managed to seize fake beards and white caps which was an indication that these persons wanted to disguise the entire operation.

However at this point of time following police action, Kalouta who was believed to have been with the rest of the accused such as Himanshu ( who died assembling the bomb) Manoharrao Pande and Bhanurao Vithalrao Choudhary managed to flee and gain entry into Madhya Pradesh. The investigators now believe that he could have been killed by his own clan since they did not want him spilling the beans. Moreover he was close to Joshi who knew too much about the operation and they did not want the trail leading to him. However sources pointed out that these are preliminary findings and they would looking at the case from this perspective as well.

However the task for the NIA does not appear to be one bit easy. The death of the prime accused Joshi is a major stumbling block and they will have to work their way around this. Kalouta too falls under the same league and the NIA would first try and ascertain as to who killed him.

In addition to this there are also other problems such as the destruction of evidence. A big part of the evidence was the mobile phone belonging to Joshi which is believed to have had details of the Samjautha blasts. However on investigation they have stumbled upon another mobile phone which has absolutely no details and they believe that it has been replaced. However this has not happened recently but was done immediately after his murder. The investigators believe that the reason for Joshi’s murder is also very similar to that of Kalouta. When the NIA landed at the house Joshi they drew a blank since all articles that belonged to him had been moved and destroyed. The diaries were missing, a revolver belonging to him could not be found and more importantly his mobile phone had been inter-changed.

Over the days the NIA would meet more often with the Madhya Pradesh police and the latter will have a lot of explaining to do. They would try digging out details as to why the police had not pursued the case relating to the mobile phone any further. It as said that it was the MP police which retrieved the mobile and had not pursued it any further despite knowing fully well that it had been inter-changed. In addition to this they would also want to see whether the murders of both Joshi and Kalouta have any connection since as of now that is what the belief among the investigators is. The NIA feels that a lot of evidence surrounding the murder of Joshi has surprisingly appeared and disappeared and they would want a detailed explanation from the Madhya Pradesh police.

Another aspect that is being investigated is why the case of the pipe bombs never came to light. It was clear that Joshi and his men had been assembling bombs to carry out a blast but the case was never investigated thoroughly. However the NIA will now investigate and interrogate a businessman by the name Rajesh Mishra who is alleged to have supplied the raw material for the preparation of these pipe bombs. This will be a crucial part of the investigation since the pipe bombs that were being prepared in Bhopal are very similar to the one that was used in the Mecca Masjid blasts.

The Madhya Pradesh police which has come under the scanner following the NIA’s re-probe however says that they will cooperate. Sanjay Rana the Inspector General of Police, Indore Range under which jurisdiction this case falls says that they will extend any help required and they have already began summoning documents pertaining to the death of Kalouta.

The NIA says that although Aseemanand makes mentions about the Samjautha blasts in his confession statement, it is still a long way to go since there are too many dots to be joined. They will have to look at all the cases (Nanded, Jalna, Parbhani, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Malegaon) together since they are inter-linked and only then can a clear picture emerge.

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Diggy has gone berserk

Photo courtesy: NY times
Congress leader, Digvijay Singh made yet another controversial remark when he alleged that the Madhya Pradesh leaders from the BJP had shielded the accused in the Samjautha Blasts which eventually helped them get away. He further went on to allege that the trio, Sunil Joshi (now deceased), Ramji Kalasanghra and Dange had the blessings of the BJP leaders and also the government in that state.

The Madhya Pradesh government has however not taken these reactions lightly and say that Singh is at it again and these statements by him will only ensure that the Congress gets wiped out even as an opposition party in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Advisor to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, G V L Narasimha Rao rubbishes these allegations and says that the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had no role to play in this and had never shielded any of the accused. In this interview with rediff.com he goes on to say that the government of MP has and will only be fair when such things are concerned and whoever the culprits are they have to be brought to book.

How has the BJP in Madhya Pradesh reacted to the latest Diggy leak on the Samjautha blasts case?

He is being reckless in his words and the latest statement by him has made him a laughing stock in Madhya Pradesh. Earlier this man used to be a label of credibility but today the general impression in the state is that he is a man who has gone berserk.

It is a fact that the three persons he refers to are from Indore and they managed to get away.

We are all here framing and passing judgments on the basis of a confessional statement. Let me assure you that if there are some people alleged to be involved in this case then rest assured they will be brought to book.

But has the government opened its eyes to this new concept called as terror by Saffron elements?

For me it seems like mindless politics. The likes of Rahul Gandhi says that Lashkar-e-Tayiba is less dangerous compared to Hindu terror. What ever happened to the claim by the American investigators who too had pointed out that the Samjautha blasts were the handiwork of the Lashkar. It is mindless politics according to me.

Coming back to Digvijay Singh, have his statements caused a dent in the image of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh?

Not at all. I do not understand why he is making such baseless statements. If he continues to do so then Congress will also lose its opposition status in Madhya Pradesh. Personally Digvijay has lost all his credibility and if he thinks he will return to power by making such statements then he is mistaken.

Are all of you in denial regarding this new phenomenon in the world of terrorism?

A statement by Aseemanand is not enough to substantiate things. Just because Rahul Gandhi says that Hindu terror is more dangerous, that does not become the truth. These persons have gone public with their mindless statements without understanding the repercussions of passing such remarks.

Has the Madhya Pradesh government been cooperative with the probe on Samjautha?

Yes why not? The investigations are not happening within the state. There are links to the state which have been spoken about. Aseemanand’s claims are yet to be substantiated and Sunil Joshi is dead. The MP government has nothing to do with the probe into this case. The investigation is being carried out by the NIA. Let them do their job. I do not think it is fair for a Digvijay to make statements at such a juncture and trust me if he continues to do so it will only help the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

Will the Madhya Pradesh government cooperate in this case?

If a formal request is made then it sure will cooperate. Any state government is obligated to extend support in such matters. The government will be fair in this case.

The connection is Indore since these men according to investigations were from this place. Is the government aware that there are fringe elements who can carry out terror activities?

The chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat already said that none of them belong to the organization. If they have had something to do with the organization in the past then it is only unfair to blame the RSS now. These persons do not have any links to the RSS. If they are fringe elements and they are found in this state then the government will only deal with them in the manner in which they are to be dealt with. The government will clean the mess and as I said earlier the culprits will be brought to book.

Is Madhya Pradesh the hub for such elements?

No that is not correct. All these people say a lot about this case. I would like to pose a counter question to all these people including you. You need to understand that this is something that has been beaten to death to serve political ends and trust me it will boomerang. Have all the rest of the cases been solved. Barring the 26/11 case no other case has been taken to its logical end. Why is there no word on the Jaipur blasts? Why are people not talking about the twin blasts in Hyderabad and also what about the train bombings of 2006? There seems to be no progress in the Delhi blasts. On the contrary the Congress leaders go to Azamgarh and convince the people there that they have nothing to do with all these blasts. What sort of a precedent are these people setting? All this looks very political to me.

A crime is a crime and each case needs to be dealt with individually.

I agree, but I also must add that there should be no over enthusiasm in such cases so as to create a hype to serve political ends. All this will harm them and also security. At no point of time am I even suggesting that the real culprits should not be brought to book.

1 crime and 2 confessions

Swami Aseemanand and Safdar Nagori
October 2008- The Samjautha blasts were carried out with the help of activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India with the help of Pakistani nationals who had come from across the border- Safdar Nagori, chief of Nagori SIMI faction.

January 2011- I met with Sunil Joshi and Bharat Rateshwar at Balpur and I was told that there would be good news. I then returned to the Shabari Dam ashram and two days later read about the Samjautha blasts. I asked Sunil Joshi about the same and he said that his men had carried out the blasts- Swami Aseemanand in his confession statement before a Delhi court.

This is a very interesting tale of two confessions made by two persons from diagonally opposite factions in connection with the same case.

Safdar Nagori who had broken away from the mainstream SIMI since he wanted the faction to become more aggressive following the ban on the organization was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police two years back. He was subjected to thorough interrogation and also a narco analysis test in which the police claim he sang about both the Mumbai train bombings and also the Samjautha blasts in which 68 persons were killed. During his interrogation he goes on to speak about the manner in which this deadly blast was carried out. He says that activists of the SIMI had carried out these blasts with the help of some Pakistan nationals who had come into India. The primary idea was that the Pakistan based terror groups were opposed to the idea of Indo-Pak peace talks and wanted to derail the same by targeting the tran and the people in it.

Swami Aseemanand on the other hand who was arrested only recently goes on to make a confession statement before the Magistrate in Delhi. During the confession he does not mention anywhere that he was kept in the loop about these blasts, but during a meeting with Sunil Joshi (now dead) in which he was told to expect some good news. Two days later he read about the blasts and Joshi told him that his men had carried it out.

Both the police and the National Investigating Agency have probed this case for quite some time. It was only a year back did the Aseemanand angle to the blasts come to the fore. Prior to that it was said that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had used the support of the SIMI to carry out this attack.

The question now is which of these reports will be taken before the court. Legal experts say that when an investigation has dealt with two outfits in the past few years in connection with the same case, they will need to present both the cases before a court of law. The fact that Aseemanand’s is a more recent confession does not mean that the Nagori report can be shunted out.

The investigating agency has a very big task ahead of them and since this case involves two sets of contrary statements they will need to probe harder and build up a case.

Justice N Satosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India explains that a lot would depend on the judge since he will have before him both versions of this case. The investigating agency will have to place both the cases before him and convince the judge as to which version has more weight and why they have investigated the case in a particular direction. The judge in turn will have to evaluate the case and pass orders accordingly.

However in the legal scenario it appears that the Aseemanand confession will have a bit more weight when compared to the one made by Nagori. However the game for the NIA could change since it is possible that Aseemanand may retract his statement claiming that he had done so under duress. There is no laid down law which states that an accused cannot retract a confessional statement before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are arguments galore across various courts in the country where the prosecution has been advancing arguments stating that an accused should not be allowed to retract a 164 statement.

The Nagori statement on the other hand will have less weight before the court since it was a statement made before the police and also during a narco analysis test which does not have much evidentiary value before the court as per orders of the Supreme Court.

Coming back to the instant case on hand, legal experts say that the onus is on the judge to evaluate the two statements. The fact is that both the statements per se have no evidentiary value before a court of law. There is a direct contradiction and both these statements have been made when the accused persons were under police custody.

Although it may be argued that Aseemanand statement will have more weight as it was made before a Magistrate, the law clearly states that this will not have evidentiary value and it is not sufficient to gurantee a conviction. The most such a statement could do is give supportive evidentiary value to the investigating agency.

The court will have to look into the other evidences supplied by the investigating agency to finally come to a conclusion. A lot would however depend on what the two accused persons- Nagori and Aseemanand finally say before the court. In addition to this if the NIA decides to go ahead with the Aseemanand angle to the case then it will need to explain why it is doing so.

Currently the NIA is completely focused on the Aseemanand angle and feel that there is more meat in this version of the case. However for that to happen they will need to take into custody the likes of Ramji Kalasanghra, Ashol alias Amith and Dange. Both versions will be probed thoroughly and it is not as though the Nagori version will be completely discarded. Investigations cannot be merely on the basis of statements and independent investigations are needed, a source in the investigating agency said.

And the hunt continues…..

Photo courtesy: Outlook
While a lot has been written about the likes of Ramji or Ramchandra Kalasanghra and Sandeep Dange, the NIA list of wanted in the Samjautha express blasts takes another name called Ashok.

The NIA which announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for those who provide information on Kalasanghra and Dange also said that any person giving inputs about Ashok would be rewarded Rs 2 lakh. The case against Ashok who also goes by the alias Amith is being built up in the Samjautha blasts case.

According to the NIA, it was the trio of Kalasanghra, Dange and Ashok who executed the Samjautha blasts under the guidance of Sunil Joshi.

The blasts on the Samjautha express was probably the biggest operation carried out by this outfit and the NIA would be keen on solving this case at the earliest. The initial part of the investigations go on to show that Aseemanand did not have that big a role to play in the Samjautha case when compared to Joshi and his men. In fact Aseemanand goes on to state that when he had met with Joshi he was told that he had a surprise for him and had also asked him to keep a watch on the newspapers. A couple of days later he read in the news paper that a major blast had been carried out on the Samjautha express in which nearly 60 persons had been killed. This had happened in the month of February when Joshi along with Bharath Rateshwar had come on a motor cycle to meet with Aseemanand. The meeting took place at a temple in Balpur and there Aseemanand was told that there would be good news. Aseemanand then returned to the Shabari Dam Ashram and two days later read about the blasts.

The NIA probe in this case has shown so far that the operation was Joshi was the key man in this operation and he was the one who had arranged for the funds and logistics in this case. The NIA says that Joshi would have had all the answers to this case and he knew more than Aseemanand, but unfortunately he is dead. He then contacted Joshi and asked him how this attack had taken place and then Joshi told him that these blasts were carried out by his men. The men that Joshi refers to have not been mentioned by Aseemanand in his confession in connection with these attacks, but the NIA says that these are the three men directly involved in the blasts.

As the investigations unfold it comes to light that the entire operation was staged by Joshi and he had used Kalsanghra, Dange and Ashok to execute these blasts. Aseemanand’s confession however makes it clear that he was in the know of this attack and it was in a meeting with Joshi the latter had suggested that mostly Pakistanis travel by this train and it would be good to target this.

The probe based on these statements so far show that Dange had arranged for the explosives for this blast while Kalsanghra and Ashok went about planting the bombs apart from preparing the logistics.

With Joshi dead, it the arrest of three men who can help solve this case. Apart from this they would also like to find out who exactly had financed these blasts and whether there were more persons involved in this attack. The NIA would also probe to find out if Indresh Kumar had anything to do with the financing of this attack and also try and find out up to what extent he had gone to even arrange for the men who finally carried out this blast.

Kalsanghra, Dange and Amit have been part of the Joshi team since all these attacks were being planned. The trio along with another person Lokesh Sharma were part of a core team which always executed attacks with Joshi. Investigators say that their names figure in all these blasts and it becomes clear that they were these men took centre stage.

Aseemanand does make a reference to Ashok once during his confession. The first time that these persons met was at Bharath Rateshwar’s house in Valsad. During the meeting Sadhvi Pragya Singh was present. Joshi turned up later and along with him he brought Dange, Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Ashok alias Amit.. It was during this meeting that Aseemanand told them that the time for revenge had come. However he realised that Joshi and his four men were already planning something.

The Aseemanand trail

Swami Aseemanand- Photo- Twocircles.net
The confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand has created a stir and for the investigating agencies looking it appears to be a phillip and they claim that this will help the investigation.

Swami Aseemanand who hails from the Hooghly district in West Bengal originally goes by the name Jatin Chatterjee and was also known as Swami Onkarnath in his circles according to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI during their interrogation of Aseemanand found that he was always associated with Hindu outfits and his mindset changed as he felt that there were too many atrocities against Hindus being carried out by Pakistan based groups and it was necessary that there was retaliation.

What is important is that the CBI now links Aseemanand to the Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjautha blasts case. A confession of is recorded by the Magistrate is what the CBI has pinned its hope on where the God man explains in detail the modus operandi behind these operations. While a confession statement is admissible as evidence, the job of the investigating agency does not end there and they will still have to prove before court that he has actually been involved in these cases. In addition to this there is also an argument on in various courts whether an accused can retract a confessional statement given before a Magistrate.

Swami Aseemanand in his confession goes on to say that it was the attack at the Akshardham temple which made him change his mind and this was precisely the time when a lot of people came together and decided that the time had come to retaliate.

During my various meetings with people I expressed my anger against attacks on temples and it was in the year 2003 that for the first time I came in contact with Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh Thakur. We discussed many times about the manner in which Islamic Terrorists carried out attacks on temples and people. It was only in the year 2006 when the Sankatmoc-han temple was attacked did Joshi decide that the time had come to hit back.

Investigations so far have shown that Joshi was given Rs 25000 by Aseemanand to carry out an attack. In the month of June 2006, Sadhvi, Joshi and I met at a house in Valsad and chalked out the plan. During the meeting four others, Dange, Lokesh, Kalsanghra and Amit came along with Joshi. During the meeting we decided on the targets and I had told all of them that a bombing should be retaliated with another bombing. We then decided to target Malegaon which had a strong Muslim population. In addition to this we also decided that we would carry out attacks at Mecca Masjid since many people in Hyderabad subscribed to the views of Pakistan. Then we also planned on the Ajmer blasts as we felt that many Hindus visited this place and a bombing would prevent them from going there in future.

While I suggested these targets, it was Joshi who came up with the plan of carrying out a blast on the Samjautha express. His view was that many Pakistanis travel by that train and it would be the best way to take revenge against Pakistan and hence an attack should be carried out. There was a consensus at that meeting and we decided to go ahead with the plan.

Following this meeting three teams were formed to execute these attacks. One of the teams would arrange finances while the other two would execute the attack and also make arrangements for the explosives. In so far as the Samjautha blasts were concerned it was Dange who made these arragements.

Investigating agencies say that the role played by these persons in the Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts is quite clear. However the details are not too forthcoming with the Samjautha case which is presently being investigated by the NIA.

It was God man Dayananand pandey who for the first time spilled the beans on this case and said that it was the same people who had carried out the Samjautha blasts. In addition to this the Maharashtra ATS too had claimed that Colonel Purohith had procured 60 kgs of RDX for these blasts, but until date no investigating agency has been able to prove this fact.

Aseemanand goes on to say in the month of February 2007 he met with Joshi at a temple in Balpur. At that meeting he told me that some important news would break out in the next couple of days. A few days later I read in the newspapers that the Samjautha blasts had taken place and later Joshi told me that it was his men who carried out the attack. Later on I gave Joshi some money for the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts and this too was executed as was planned.

The CBI investigation of Aseemanad may have revealed a lot of facts, but it continues to remain unclear as to how Colonel Purohith was involved in this case. It is now up to the NIA to investigate this aspect and they would question both Aseemanand and Purohith in this regard.

Aseemanand told the CBI that he first came in contact with Purohith four years back. Purohith was part of Abhinav Bharath and during the various meetings with him they discussed on carrying out terror strikes.

The NIA now has its task cut out. Sources say that apart from investigating the Aseemanand angle to the Samjautha blasts, they would also look into a possible role that he could have played in the Goa blasts as well.

The Headley confession Part 3

An officer of the National Investigating Agency says that David Headley knows a bit too much and his confessions during his 30 hour interrogation have revealed that. Be it the German Bakery blasts or the train bombings of 2006, he was in the know of all this.

Prior to the Barrack Obama visit India had lodged a protest with the US authorities that they had not given specific information regarding Headley. The Home Secretary, G K Pillai had in an interview with rediff.com pointed out that the US could have been more specific with its information on Headley and should have informed us at least about his visit after the 26/11 attack.

What Headley told the NIA?

The Lashkar-e-Tayiba has been witnessing changes and post 26/11 they were impressed with the manner in which the attack was carried out and even set up a naval wing for future operations. The naval wing was specifically created to carry out sea borne attacks against India and in future there will be more attacks from the sea. The naval wing which was created just after the attack of 26/11 is headed by a person by the name Yaqub. They have roped in the services of another person by the name Abdur Rehman who is from the Pakistan navy. He is an expert at diving and will train the cadres in this department. The Lashkar also has a frogman to take care of operations. In addition to this the Lashkar has also set up a women’s wing. The main role of this wing at the moment is to write songs which act as inspiration to the cadres.

When I was carrying out my job for the 26/11 attack, I was shown photographs of the ten attackers. These pictures were shown to me by my handler Sajid. One of the persons who was involved in the attack was also part of the team which attacked the rally in which Dr Manmohan Singh addressed in Srinagar in the year 2004. I was also shown the photographs of Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail who launched the attack which ended up killing the policemen on the streets that night. I was also introduced to a person by the name Muzzamil at the same time who I was told was the man who carried out both the Chhitisinghpura attack and also the attack at the Akshardham temple.

It was during my trip to India in the month of March 2008 that I carried out a reccee of the Chabad House. At first it was decided to give this place a skip, but later my ISI handlers told me that I should carry out a survey of this place and it would be attacked. I did accordingly and even shot videos of the Chabad House. I clicked pictures of the targets in the city with a camera which was gifted to me by my mother in law and the videos were shot from my mobile phone.

It was during this visit that I also made a trip to Pune where I conducted a detailed survey of the German Bakery. After this, I returned to Lahore after this attack and met with my handler Pasha. At that point of time, I even handed out sketches and videos of the targets that I had videographed. It was then that I said to Pasha at Lahore that it would be better for us to stage an attack on the National Defence College, which today is under their radar. I had told Pasha that if we stage an attack on the National Defence College, then we could kill more Indian soldiers than Pakistan managed to kill in all its wars with India.

In addition to the work that I have carried out for the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Al-Qaeda I have also carried out surveys exclusively for the ISI.

In the year 2003 when I started my training there was a lot of talk within the Lashkar regarding the ban that had been imposed on it. It was during a meeting with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi that these discussions regarding the ban came up. My handler at that time, Sajid was also part of this meeting. They had initially decided to challenge the ban and opt for a legal recourse. However Sajid suggested to them that it would not be advisable since during a legal challenge a can of worms could open up and India will begin presenting solid proof against the Lashkar which would be bad for the outfit.

During the time of my training, I traveled extensively to many countries such as Maldives, France, Germany, UK and Sri Lanka. I used to travel under my real name Dawood Gilani. It was only when I came to India that I changed my name to David Headley as I had been instructed to do so.

The ISI backs every project carried out by the Lashkar and even the 2006 train bombings were backed by the ISI. It was during my meeting with Pasha that he confirmed that the ISI had backed the 2006 train bombings completely.

The Headley confession Part-1
The Headley confession Part-2

The Headley confession Part 2

David Headley’s journey of India has been much spoken about and as of today when one looks into the case, it becomes clear that his role was not just restricted to the 26/11 attack, but he had a much larger role to play.

A team of the National Investigating Agency which had interrogated Headley for nearly 30 hours in the presence of his lawyer and some FBI sleuths in the US have not only managed to pick up information regarding the 26/11 attack, but have also got details on various aspects of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Headley in his interview with the NIA says that he had on many occasions tried and got close to the PRO of the Shiv Sena since Hafiz Saeed felt that the Chief of that organization was responsible for a lot of atrocities against Muslims. Headley also goes on to say that the Lashkar wanted Benazir Bhutto dead and when she was in the hospital following the incident a lot of men within this outfit were praying that she did not survive.

Headley’s narration to the NIA:

I get the feeling that the 26/11 attack was planned by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the ISI to shift focus of the world from the Afghanistan issue. Moreover they also felt that there was a need to instill confidence in the cadres and they were getting demoralized and restless. A lot of them wanted to do jihad and join the battle in Afghanistan.

The Lashkar subscribes to the Salahi faith of Islam and they believe that they should install the rule of God. The Lashkar has been inclined towards the battle in Kashmir and over a period of time there was a debate amongst the cadres regarding joining the battle in Afghanistan. The ISI was very clear that it wanted to keep Kashmir and Afghanistan separate and did not want the two issues being mixed up. This debate within the Lashkar was leading to a split and the ISI thought that it needed to stage a 26/11 attack in order to keep the outfit together.

The Lashkar has not stopped speaking about Bal Thackerey and during my meeting with Saeed he had said that the chief of the Sena had damaged a Muslim nation. The Shiv Sena continues to be a big target for the Lashkar.

During my stint in Mumbai, my handler Sajid was particular that I conducted a proper survey of the Taj Mahal Hotel. I was also told to videograph the Shiv Sena Bhawan. I had visited that place and even chatted up some of the security guards over there. I tried to get close to the PRO of that organization, Rajaram.

I got close to Ilyas Kashmiri after the 26/11 attack. He belonged to the 313 brigage of the Al-Qaeda. Along with him I also got in touch with Abdur Hashim aka Pasha who was a retired major of the Pakistan army. Pasha was first asked to fight the Taliban, but he refused to do so and began training Lashkar men. I had even introduced Pasha to some of my contacts who used to deal in drugs. I had spoken about these contacts with Rahul Bhatt, but he did not know in what context I was talking about this.

Pasha is an important man in the set up and he has asked me to survey various targets in India. He has a lot of anti India operations up his sleeve and he runs the army of Fidayeens for this purpose.

Pasha had insisted that I joined the Al-Qaeda and I readily agreed. I conducted a survey of the National Defence College at his behest. In addition to this I have also made videos of targets at Delhi, Goa and Pune. All this material is with him and it could be used for future attacks.

In addition to this we had also planned on attacking the Taj Presidency, Naval Air Station, World Trade Centre, the Siddhi Vinayak Temple and also the Bombay Stock Exchange. However these targets were later traded for the Chhabad House. Pasha was aware of this change and in fact he was thrilled when this plan changed. When I was conducting a survey of the Taj Mahal hotel, I came across a jewellery shop and planned on staging a robbery there. I had thought that this money could be used for the attack. It was well received, but then that plan fizzled out.

After conducting these surveys, on one my return trips to Pakistan, I got the news that Benazir Bhutto had been shot. When I visited the Lashkar camp, I witnessed that a lot of the cadres of the Lashkar were praying hard that she does not survive. It was around this time a Major by the name Haroon and I planned on assassinating Pervez Musharaf for his Lal Masjid operation.

In addition to the job of conducting surveys, I was also told by my handlers to check if the SIM connections which were to be used by the attackers would work in India. I did that at the Wagah border and told them that the connections were fine. It was around the same time that we held a discussion to drop the attack on the VT station. I suggested that there could be a number of Muslims and they could lose their lives. My apprehensions were however dismissed and I was told that the attack would be conducted during the Iftari and no Muslims would be out at that time.

I faced a lot of problems during my operations. After my marriage to Faiza, she complained on various occasions that I was not taking care of her. She even met with Saeed and said that I did not care for her. Despite Saeed telling me to give her more attention, I told him that I was busy with my work and he did not say more after that. She was very upset with me and even had me arrested in Lahore for a week. However I was released later.

After the 26/11 attack, I was told that both Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed were arrested in Pakistan. My handler Sajid told me there was nothing to worry and in fact we had clearance to carry out another major attack on the Jamnagar oil refinery. Both Saeed and Lakhvi got preferential treatment in jail. Both were given home made food and their families were free to visit them anytime they wanted.

After this I was told that I should not stay in touch with any of my handlers since there was a lot of pressure following this attack. I then moved on to the Denmark project and this was being coordinated by Ilyas Kashmiri and Pasha. I even volunteered that I was ready to blow my self up for any such project. However when this operation was being planned, I was arrested.

Currently the Lashkar and the Al-Qaeda are planning a big operation called as the Karachi Project. This has the blessings of ISI. An ISI member by the name Colonel Shah is a handler for Pasha who is the main man in this Karachi Project.

The Lashkar plans to launch these attacks from Maharashtra and Gujarat. They plan on staging this attack from the sea. The men who have been picked up for this operation are basically from the Kashmir valley and they are the ones who have lost their loved ones due to Indian aggression.

The Karachi project could involve attacks on the National Defence College, the Raksha Bhawan and the Rajkot oil refinery which the Lashkar has conducted surveys of.

The ISI-Lashkar love affair will go on forever

The blood-shed at VT during 26/11 attack. Photo courtesy: http://www.impactlab.net

Time and again India has voiced its protest against the Pakistan establishment funding terror against India and also shielding deadly terrorists who have nothing but the destruction of India on their mind. While Pakistan continues to be in denial about this, an interesting article that appeared in the pro publica written by the dynamic Sebastian Rotella confirms the fact that the ISI had a big role to play in the 26/11 attack which left nearly 166 persons dead.

While the article speaks in length about the interrogation of David Headley, Indian agencies tell rediff.com that while Headley has spoken more about what we already know, it sure is a feather in our cap since he goes on to confirm to us the extent of the role played by the ISI in this horrific attack.

The Intelligence Bureau says that they have always said that no attack launched from Pakistan soil is possible without the blessings of the ISI and no terrorist outfit can survive in Pakistan unless and until the ISI wants it. They also point out that there is a lot of similarity between the statements given by Headley and also by the one given by Sabhauddin Ahmed who is an accused in both the Crpf Rampur case and also the Indian Institute of Sciences case. The ISI picks key operatives such as these and when such men are involved in the case, there is extra attention given to them. Both Headley and Sabahuddin Ahmed were received by officials of the ISI when they set foot on Pakistan soil. Their entire journey, be it their accomodation, training or even departure at the airport was overseen personally by an official in the ISI.

However one cannot draw a comparison to the role played by these two men and Headley was a much bigger player in this network and he was bound to get more attention and guidance from the ISI. An official who interrogated Headley in the US confirms the Pro Publica report and says that his journey began with him meeting Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. He was introduced to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba leadership through the ISI who was looking for an American national to carry out the scouting job for them in India since American nationals were not screened as much as the other nationals are.

The NIA says that during Headley’s interrogation, he makes it very clear that all through he had the guidance of the ISI and they explained to him in detail each and every role that he played including the persons he needed to be in touch with. Headley’s main interaction was however with a man by the name Sajid Mir, who the IB confirms was a former ISI officer now with the Lashkar.

The IB points out that not only in the case of David Headley, but in the case of almost every top ranking Lashkar operative, the ISI has complete control. Each of these operatives have a handler who is an ISI officer and nothing is planned without their knowledge. The ISI found it important to have a handler for every key operative since this not only helps them plan and execute attacks well, but they also ensure that these operatives are under their control at all times.

Headley in his own words says that his first stint with the ISI was when he was detained for trying to smuggle arms into India. They saw potential in him and handed over documents regarding India and this is approximately the time when the idea to scout targets in India was planned. All through the operation, his handler was an ISI officer by the name Major Iqbal who helped Headley on how to use cameras and also draw maps while undertaking a reccee. Headley also went on to tell the NIA that the training was very scientific in nature and very often he was taken to the camps of the Lashkar where he underwent training. The NIA says that the training for Headley was not held in camps where there were others. At no point of time did the ISI want this information going out since he was their point man and the attacks today have proven what a thorough job he had done.

Headley was later sent to Mumbai to survey the targets and it was Major Iqbal who handed him nearly Rs 10 lakh to carry out this operation. The call records of Headley would however suggest that he was touch with this man, but the number he kept calling was that of a United States number. This is a pretty common feature, the intelligence agency says as ISI operatives usually tend to use number of other countries since they would want to keep their location a secret and often bounce calls from other countries.

During the interrogation, Headley terms this major as the mastermind, but the NIA and the IB say that it would not be right to term the major as the sole master mind as an attack of such a huge magnitude cannot be controlled by one solitary person. He could be called as Headley’s mastermind, but then we are pretty sure that the entire Pakistan establishment was aware of what was cooking and they played along.

Another fact that Headley has confirmed to the Indian agencies is regarding the training the other operatives got from the Pakistan navy. This was a fact that the Intelligence Bureau had told rediff.com a couple of days after the attack. The IB had said there is a special group called as the Musa Company which first imparted basic training in Thakot later trained these ten terrorists at Karachi where they underwent naval training in rough weather sailing. Prior to this meeting they had met at Muzafarabad where an officer of this group briefed the Lashkar cadres.The elite wing of the Pakistan navy was involved in this attack and it had trained the ten terrorists for over 3 months on operating from the sea. When these men gained entry into India it was evident that it was a military styled operation undertaken to such precision. Headley too confirmed this during his interrogation and has told the NIA that the Pakistan’s navy had played a very crucial role in this attack. Headley also goes on to say that an officer by the name Abdur Rehman had given technical advise to the Lashkar on this aspect. It was at that meeting in Muzafarabad the Lashkar and the Special Services Group had discussed the landing points and also on how they could hijack a vessel and gain entry into Indian waters.

The IB says that the love affair between Pakistan terror groups and the ISI will continue as long as terrorism is existent on this earth. There is no way in which both can do without each other. This fact was also reiterated by Stephen Tankel author of the book Lashkar-e-Tayiba, From 9/11 to Mumbai. He says that the ISI will continue to support groups such as the Lashkar since it has utility vis-à-vis India. No matter how much pressure there is from any quarter they would continue to control these groups since they feel that letting go of them will lead to a major insurgency in Pakistan.

The NIA and the IB which are going over the details of the David Headley interrogation says that there is enough material to nail Pakistan, but the real problem will be redressed when that country realizes and more importantly accepts that their intelligence agency has turned rogue.

Also Read: Headley was not alone

Is Aseemanand the man?


Swami Aseemanand. Photo courtesy: NDTV
Swami
Aseemanand who also goes by the alias Jatin Chatterjee is in the
thick of action with the National Investigating Agency now saying
that they want to probe him in connection with the Samjautha
blasts. This is the second time around that investigators are
making an attempt to crack the Samjautha blasts case in which 68
persons a majority of whom were of Pakistani origin lost their
lives. The irony of this case is that when investigations first
commenced, the agencies had suspected that it was the
Lashkar-e-Tayiba that carried it out. However now with the NIA
stepping in the probe appears to have taken a different angle to it
and they suspect that it was the group that carried out the
Malegaon blasts which also carried out the Samjautha blasts.
Sources told rediff.com that the investigations
would rely heavily upon the statements of Swami Aseemanand whose
identity was revealed recently when the Central Bureau of
Investigation stepped up the heat on him in connection with the
Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts. Investigators say that they have
been on the trail of this group ever since Sadhvi Pragya Singh was
arrested in connection with the Malegaon case. Her arrest lead to
the arrests of Colonel Shrikanth Purohith and god man Dayanand
Pandey who also spoke vaguely about the Samjautha blasts, according
to investigators. However for the investigators, the clincher was
the statement of Dayanand Pandey who during his narco analysis test
in Bangalore had said that these blasts were planned by them and it
was the Sadhvi and Colonel Purohith who finally executed it. The
Mumbai ATS which was then probing the Malegaon case under Hemanth
Karkare also mentioned this briefly in the remand application of
Purohith. However the ATS was not able to find anything more on the
Samjautha case and went ahead and filed a specific chargesheet in
the Malegaon case. When one of the investigators in this case was
asked as to why there was a lull regarding this case for so long,
he draws attention to the fact that Pandey had spoken about another
man who was above all of them while these blasts were being
executed or even planned. They say that they had got details
regarding this man, but did not want to reveal it at that time
since they had to launch a man hunt for him before collecting more
details. Today investigators believe that this man who Pandey had
spoken about was Aseemanand. He will be crucial to the
investigation since we need to take it forward from where Pandey
had left it. Investigators so far have found that there was a
meeting of many persons including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Sunil
Joshi and few others in the year 2006 at Gujarat. During the
meeting they had decided to avenge the blasts at Sankat Mochan in
Varanasi. Investigators point out that to avenge this blast and a
few others these persons decided that they would carry out attacks
at Mecca Masjid, the Samjautha Express and also at Ajmer. Following
this meeting there was another one in Indore in which it was
allegedly decided that they would go ahead with the attack. The
investigating agency say that the material was procured from
Indore. This was in fact a break made by the Haryana police who had
tracked that material procured for these blasts were from the
Kothari market in Indore. The NIA now has its task cut out and will
probe Aseemanand to get a final clarity on this case. An
application was submitted before the Panchkula court which is
seized off the Samjautha matter seeking custody of Aseemanand to
probe him in connection with this case. The application was
submitted attached with material which had they had against the God
man in this particular case.

Headley was not alone

Photo courtesy: Bharat Chronicle

Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning reporter relentlessly exposing the David Headley case, in an exclusive interview with Rediff.com’s Vicky Nanjappa.
ProPublica.org, the respected journalism Web site, has blown the lid off US claims about Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley.
In a series of investigative reports, the non-profit news organisation has revealed how US intelligence agencies ignored about five warnings from Headley’s family about his terror activities.
Sebastian Rotella, the award-winning correspondent at ProPublica, believes that Headley could not have undertaken the surveys of targets for the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai all by himself.

Just before President Obama’s visit to India, there was a storm over the exact nature of intelligence the US shared with India on David Headley.What according to you is the real story?

In my story that I have reported recently, I have written about the time line of the warnings and inputs the agencies have received on Headley.

A review of the US government’s contacts with Headley had identified at least 5 different cases in which relatives or associates had warned that he was training or working with Pakistani terrorists.

Leads about this man surfaced in 2001, 2002, December 2008 and April 2009. Now coming to your question on the exact nature of intelligence shared by the US with India, not one of them mentioned or referred to David Headley.

The intelligence shared with India made mentions about an attack in Mumbai, but the name of Headley never cropped up during the intelligence sharing between the two countries.

It is said that the allegations made by Headley’s wife were too general in nature to connect Headley to a terror plot? Do you think this was a slip up?

The Americans decided that the nature of the allegations was not specific in nature and I cannot say why they said this.
In April 2008, she had spoken about a special mission being undertaken by Headley and in my thinking this is pretty specific.

The agencies seem to have a different interpretation of this and I really cannot comment why this is the case.

Do you think the agencies were a bit slow in reacting to Headley considering the first warnings about him came after the 9/11 attacks?

That is a matter to be seen. I have mentioned that there were various instances where his relatives or friends have spoken about him.
The nature of the warnings by his wife, according to me, was specific in nature. However, it is about how each one analyses this information. I cannot comment why they thought it was not specific in nature.

It is said that Headley shared a lot of information with his handlers post 26/11. How grave a situation do you think this is for India?

This is a matter of investigation. Headley has spoken a lot to his interrogators and they have managed to get a lot of information from him about the manner in which operations have been carried out and how their modules function.

How much of an effect do you think Headley’s arrest has had on terror groups like Lashkar and Al Qaeda?

It is not the end of the road for them. But it sure is a big blow to Al Qaeda and Lashkar.

Headley’s arrest has deprived these groups of a good scout.
In Headley they had a lot of benefits. He could speak in several languages and the manner in which he could operate was very unique. They do not have many like him.
Hence, his arrest is a big blow to them although not the end of the road.

What, according to you, has changed in the entire terror scenario post Headley’s arrest?

Headley has been talking a lot and has been giving loads of information on the manner in which both Al Qaeda and the Lashkar operate.
However, the most important thing is the information that he has shared regarding Ilyas Kashmiri. This bit of information has helped agencies in India, Pakistan and the US realise the threat posed by Kashmiri.

Headley also goes on to reveal the importance of Kashmiri and what a threat he is to the world.
Headley also lists the manner in which both these organisations work and also how their modules function.

Overall, I think Headley was a prime catch for the agencies and will help nations fight the terror war more effectively in future.

Headley slipped into India with ease on several occasions. What do you think made this job so easy for him?
Was there any support from the US agencies?

I cannot tell if there was any support for him from US agencies. The fact that he had a clean passport and a legitimate business made the job very easy for him.

He travelled on clean documents on various occasions and that didn’t create any doubt for anyone.
Moreover, as I said earlier too, he was a good scout and his operations were unique in nature.

He ensured that there was no mess up in his documents. All these factors helped him carry out a smooth operation in India without getting noticed.

Photo courtesy: Bharat Chronicle

I am not too sure about the people who he had with them. People who have interrogated him have said that he did not take any assistance.
However, that seems unlikely.
He had a legitimate business and many of those working in this set-up too have managed to immigrate into India. These factors need to be looked into.
The entire case needs to be seen as a whole since there was also talk that there were scouts such as Fahim Ansari in India who also did some part of the work.
Why has the name of Tawwahur Rana, which was prominent in the early part of the Headley investigation, vanished? What role did he play?

Rana is a less important character in this entire case. Headley has already pleaded guilty whereas the case against Rana is still going on and one needs to see what comes out of it.
As of now what we know is that Rana is the one who provided Headley with the infrastructure. It is too early to say anything much on Rana as of now since the case is still open against him.