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LeT attempted to kill Bal Thackeray but assailant was arrested: Headley

DECCAN CHRONICLE WITH AGENCY INPUTS | SHAHAB ANSARI
Published Mar 24, 2016, 9:37 am IST
Updated Mar 24, 2016, 3:43 pm IST
Headley said he visited Shiv Sena Bhavan twice on instructions of his supervisor Sajid Mir.
Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley (Photo: video grab)
 Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley (Photo: video grab)

Mumbai: Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley, convicted in the US for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, told a Mumbai court on Thursday that terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) wanted to eliminate Bal Thackeray but the person who was assigned the job to kill the late Shiv Sena chief was arrested.

The 55-year-old, who has turned approver in the terror case, disclosed this fact during a cross-examination on the second day by Abdul Wahab Khan, the lawyer of Abu Jundal, an alleged key plotter of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, via a video link from the US.

 

Headley also told the court that he had visited the Sena Bhavan twice. He, however, did not specify the year for the same.

"We wanted to target the chief of Shiv Sena... His name was Bal Thackeray. LeT wanted to kill him wherever a chance arose. I knew that Bal Thackeray was the head of Shiv Sena. I have no first hand knowledge but I think an attempt was made by LeT to kill Bal Thackeray," he said.

"I don't know how this attempt was made. I think the person (who was sent to kill Thackeray) was arrested but he managed to escape from police custody. I don't have first hand knowledge about this though," Headley added.

He also told special judge G A Sanap, who is hearing the 26/11 terror case against Jundal in a sessions court here, that he does not know who else was a target of LeT apart from Thackeray.

On a question asked by Wahab, Headley said that he bought two shops in Dubai in 2004 or 2005 for 5000-2000 USD and both the shops are still functional. However, he refused to provide the address, saying that his relatives are looking after those shops.

When Wahab alleged that LeT is looking after those shops, Headley said ‘Subhan Allah'. Abu Jundal’s defence lawyer wanted this word to be interpreted as an affirmation to his question but Headley said that it is ‘advocate Abdul Wahab's imagination’.

Special judge G A Sanap asked Headley to just answer in yes or no and restrain from using words like ‘Subhan Allah', which could be misinterpreted. To which Headley said, “Insha' Allah, will take care of this in future.”

When asked by Wahab as to how much money he had spent on his visit and reconnaissance in India prior to 26/11 attacks, Headley said, "I am not sure... Many lakhs were spent by me not as high as Rs 30-40 lakhs but much less. It is correct that ISI spent this money but it is not correct that I demanded the money from them."

Headley said that after the 26/11 attacks, when he had come to India again (in March 2009) at the behest of Al-Qaeda to carry out further attacks, its leader Illiyas Kashmiri gave him about Pakistani rupees one lakh.

He claimed while LeT came under the scanner of international community after the November 26, 2008 attacks, it was not correct to say that LeT became ‘soft’ towards India.

"I think they (LeT) became soft about Denmark (Mickie mouse project) but not India. After the Denmark issue (LeT backing out from attacking Denmark) I went to Al-Qaeda, as LeT had become soft," Headley told the court.

Headley told the court that while he had not personally met any of the 10 attackers in the 26/11 case but he had seen the photo of one of the attackers on internet and identified him as Ajmal Kasab 'Rehmatullah Aliah'.

When asked as to why did he put the words 'Rehmatullah Aliah' after Kasab's name, Headley replied, "When a person is dead he should be prayed for whether he is good or bad. One should pray for the person...to be forgiven. I don't know if Kasab was good or bad as I didn't know him."

When prodded if what Kasab had done (by participating in 26/11 attacks) was good or bad and if the act of 26/11 was good deed or a bad deed, Headley said, "Of course the act of murder is not going to be a good act. Any kind of murder of innocent person is a bad act."

Wahab then asked him if he was 'happy and satisfied' with the damages in the 26/11, to which Headley said "this is an argumentative question. Kush the yeh bhi galat jawab hai, Kush nahi the yeh bhi galat jawab hai, (I was happy is also a wrong answer and I was not happy is too a wrong answer). What can I say ?"

Headley also told the court that in the 26/11 case (in which he has been awarded a 35 years sentence by the US court), supervised release is also part of his sentence.

"As per the US law, I have to compulsorily undergo 85 per cent of my sentence and I don't know if my sentence can be terminated before completion of 85 per cent sentence."

He also told the court that within half an hour of his arrest by FBI he had started cooperating with them and gave them all information. Headley also said that he was also interrogated by a team of NIA officials from India and he had cooperated with them too.

"It is not correct that NIA questioned me about my wife Shazia's involvement in 26/11. I did not give any information about Shazia as she had no role..she was not part of the conspiracy," he told the court.

Headley also got into a verbal spat with Khan when the lawyer persistently questioned him about Shazia, his former wife Faiza and their knowledge of the 26/11 terror attack.

"The communication between me and my wife Shazia and Faiza are privileged and private and it is none of Mr Wahab's interest," Headley told the court.

The LeT operative however clarified that Shazia was not working for the terror outfit but said that he (Headley) does not know if her father was working for Pakistan's ISI.

At one point of time, an irked Headley even asked Khan if he would say where his father works.

On Wednesday, Headley had said that the US had once financed his trip to Pakistan and also claimed that he had "donated" about Rs 70 lakh to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) till 2006, two years before the Mumbai attacks.

Read: US had once financed my trip to Pak, reveals Headley in cross-examination

The 55-year-old terrorist, who was cross-examined via a video link from the US, told the court that after his arrest in 1998, "The Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) of the US financed my trip. I was in contact with DEA then, but it is not true that between 1988 and 1998 I was providing information or assisting DEA".

Headley, who is serving a 35-year jail term in the US and has turned approver in the 26/11 case, contradicted reports that he had received money from the LeT.

"I never received money from LeT...this is complete nonsense. I gave funds to LeT myself. I had donated more than 60 to 70 lakh Pakistani Rupees to LeT throughout the period I was associated with them. My last donation was in 2006", Headley told the court.

Also read:  Headley’s cross-examination begins, dodges questions on his wife Shazia

He clarified that the money given was not for any specific operation of LeT, but was a general donation primarily for many things.

"These donations were from my business in New York and from the income that I earned by selling and purchasing some properties in Pakistan. I don't remember if I informed US authorities about my donations to LeT," he said.

Picking holes in the credibility of Headley's evidence, 26/11 attack plotter Abu Jundal's lawyer today argued that the terrorist, who faced conviction twice in the past before the Mumbai strikes, had indulged in criminal activities and violated his plea bargain agreements with the US government.

Headley was convicted in 1988 and 1998 by a court in the US for alleged drug smuggling, Jundal's lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan said. However, on both the occasions, Headley had entered into a plea bargain with the American government and got off with a lighter sentence.

"One of the conditions of my plea agreement was that I should not take part in any criminal activity. I violated this condition by going to Pakistan and joining the LeT," Headley told special judge G A Sanap, who is hearing the 26/11 terror case against Jundal in a sessions court here.

Read: Was inspired by Hafiz Sayeed's speeches, reveals David Headley

Headley told the court that after completing his four year sentence in 1988, he was involved in drug smuggling from 1992 to 1998 and had visited Pakistan during this period.

Headley was examined by the prosecution in February this year for five days and the court later adjourned the case for his cross-examination, which started from Wednesday.

Testifying from an undisclosed location in the US, Headley told the court that it was not possible that his donations were used for the 26/11 terror attacks.

"My last donation was made in 2006 and at that time 26/11 plan was not in place," he said.

Read: From Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley: A timeline

When Khan kept implying in his questions that he had received money from LeT, an irked Headley said, "I have repeated it several times. I did not receive any money from LeT...if you don't understand this language I can say it in Urdu."

Seeing Khan smile, Headley said, "Your client's life is relying on this case. You should be serious about that...don't joke."

Headley also told the court that Tahawwur Rana, his associate and a Pakistani native who operated an immigration business in Chicago, was aware that he was an operative of terror outfit LeT.

On being asked by Khan about Rana, Headley said, "Rana knew about my association with LeT. I informed him about the training imparted by me to LeT operatives. I disclosed to Rana that I was spying for LeT. This was four to five months before the 26/11 attacks."

Read: ISI funded terror operations and my trips to India, says David Headley

He said Rana had objected to his association with LeT, and added that Rana was not in "constant touch" with any LeT operatives.

"Rana objected to my association with LeT. He did not want me to continue using his office in Mumbai. I conceded his objection and started taking steps to close down the office.

This was in July 2008," he said. Headley also told the court that Rana had once come to Mumbai just prior to the 26/11 attacks, and that the latter continued his association with him till his arrest.

"I was working on Denmark conspiracy project (Mickey Mouse project) on my own and not with Rana. Rana offered me assistance on some occasions. He was a 'small part' of it," he said.

Read: BARC, Sena Bhavan too were on radar: David Headley

Queried about his wife Shazia, a visibly exasperated Headley told the defense counsel that he is not going to answer questions about her.

Headley also refused to reveal the location of his life, whether she is in USA or Pakistan, or her father's name.

"Shazia is still my legally wedded wife. I do not want to disclose Shazia's location at present. I do not want to answer any question about my wife Shazia," he said.

He, however, said his wife never visited India and that he had disclosed to her about his association with LeT.

"Shazia never visited India. Originally she's from Pakistan. I had told Shazia about my association with LeT. I don't remember when I disclosed this to her, at least not immediately."

When Khan asked Headley what was Shazia's reaction to this disclosure, he said, "Her reaction to this is between me and her. It is our personal relation. I don't want to disclose whether she objected or not or what she said. I am not going to share what happened between me and my wife."

When Khan continued questioning him on Shazia, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam took objection to it and said that under Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, the communication between a husband and wife is a privileged one and need not be disclosed.

However, the judge said that he will decide tomorrow on whether Khan's question to Headley about his wife falls under this purview.

Headley also told the court that in the 1998 drug case trial in the US, he had testified against two co-accused, out of whom one was acquitted and the other was convicted as he pleaded guilty.

He said that he was sentenced to 15 months in jail and after that he was kept on five years' supervised release.

"There was a motion moved by the state government attorney to terminate my supervisory release because of my 'good conduct'," Headley said.

He also said that in the 1988 case while he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, his co-accused were awarded a heavier sentence than him.

The Pakistani-American terrorist had earlier concluded his week-long deposition before the Mumbai sessions court through a video-link from the US on February 13.

Headley said in his earlier deposition how Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI provides "financial, military and moral support" to terror outfits LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen, and how LeT planned and executed the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

He had also claimed that Ishrat Jahan, killed in an allegedly fake encounter in Gujarat, was an LeT operative.

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