David Headley pleads guilty in 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack
US citizen David Headley, who allegedly scouted locations and provided advance support for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, agreed to plead guilty for his role in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
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Lashkar has been designated a terrorist organization by both India and the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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The indictment says Headley attended the group’s training camps in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003. It says he conspired with Lashkar leaders from late 2005 until his arrest in 2009 to facilitate the organization’s violent objectives, including bombings and murders.
His primary role appears to have been as an advance man, scouting out the scenes of potential violent attacks. To better perform this role he changed his name in 2006 from Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley, a name that would not suggest ties to a militant Muslim group.
Using his new name and funds supplied by Lashkar, Headley opened a travel office in Mumbai. US officials say it was a cover to allow him to conduct pre-attack surveillance. From 2006 to 2008, Headley took photographs and made video recordings of hotels, meeting places, and other public locations in Mumbai. He was even instructed to use a handheld GPS unit to identify suitable places along the harbor for boat landings.
On November 26, 2008, 10 heavily-armed members of Lashkar came ashore at Mumbai harbor in rubber boats and fanned out across the city to locations that had been earlier identified and documented by Headley. Attacks were carried out at the Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi hotel, the Leopold Café, a Jewish community center called the Chabad House, and a major train station. The photos, videos, and GPS coordinates helped the attackers elude police and maximize the number of civilian casualties.
Among the dead were six Americans, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg. His wife, Rivkah, who was also killed, was six months pregnant.
According to the indictment, four months after the Mumbai attack, in March 2009, Headley “conducted surveillance of various targets in India, including but not limited to, the National Defense College in Delhi and Chabad Houses in several cities in India.”
Headley conducted similar surveillance in advance of an alleged plot to take violent action against the Danish illustrator who drew the offensive cartoon of Mohammed, according to the indictment. In the summer of 2009, Headley traveled to Copenhagen and made 13 videos.
He met repeatedly with leaders of various militant groups in Pakistan, the indictment says, including Ilyas Kashmiri who is said by prosecutors to have been in regular contact with Al-Qaeda leaders. Headley also met with a Kashmiri associate, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed. Both are charged in the indictment. They remain fugitives and are believed to be in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
The fourth man named in the indictment is Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana. He is charged with providing material support to a terror organization. Mr. Rana is in US custody and is slated to stand trial.