David Headley first trained by Lashkar, then ISI
May 27, 2011, 12.44am IST
CHICAGO: Dissatisfied with the military and espionage training received by Mumbai attacks accused David Coleman Headley from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pakistan’s spy agency ISI gave him special coaching in surveillance tactics before 26/11.
The training was given by Major Iqbal, Headley’s ISI handler, on the streets and in a two-storey safe house in Lahore near the airport, the 50-year-old said.
“ISI did provide me (espionage) training,” Headley told a Chicago court as he was grilled by defence attorney Charles Swift who’s trying to prove Headley’s friend and co-accused, businessman Tahawwur Rana, was in the dark about the Lashkar operative’s terror role.
Headley told the court that when he met Major Iqbal in 2006, he was told Lashkar’s training was “very elementary” and “not very good”. So Major Iqbal, who was identified by Headley as Chaudhery Khan, decided to personally coach him. It was a double-storey house with a small compound outside in a residential neighbourhood, Headley described.
In answer to repeated questions on Thursday, Headley said he did not know the full name of Major Iqbal, but was sure he was from the ISI. Although Headley never saw Major Iqbal in military uniform, he came to meet him several times in a military jeep and his subordinates had military designations, he said.
He was introduced as Major Iqbal to him.
Headley said he never went to the ISI headquarters and added that he was introduced to Major Iqbal by military personnel.
The disclosures are part of the testimony of Headley, who has pleaded guilty, and cements India’s charges that elements of ISI were involved in the 26/11 attack. Delhi’s fears are being corroborated by information given by federal prosecutors in the documents to the court, which have been unsealed.
The ISI and Major Iqbal were particularly motivated by the fact that he was born in the US. As an American national, he would be able to conceal his real identity in India, they felt.
“They (ISI and Major Iqbal) wanted me to have a business so as to have the ability to have a long-term stay in India. In discussion with them I suggested it to take the help of Dr Rana’s (Tahawwur Rana) business to get this objective,” he said.
According to the new documents, Headley began attending terror training camps of the Lashkar in February 2002. By December 2003, Headley had attended five separate courses, and had been trained in, among other things, Lashkar’s philosophy, the use of weapons and grenades, combat tactics, survival skills and counter-surveillance methods.
After completing several camps, Headley became acquainted with senior Lashkar member Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, who was responsible for Lashkar’s military operations and one of the brains behind 26/11.