MUMBAI: Haroon Naik, an arrested accused in 13/7 Mumbai blasts, had met LeT operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and was present at an "inspirational" lecture by slain al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan just a month before the 9/11 attack.
Naik, who is alleged to have used hawala channels to fund the triple blasts here last year, was also known to Sheikh Omar, the killer of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and Aftab Ansari, the mastermind of 2002 American Center attack in Kolkata, top Maharashtra ATS sources said today.
35-year-old Naik, who is in ATS custody since February 1 in connection with the blast case, was nabbed from the Mumbai international airport on August 22 last year on the charge of possessing fake currency notes and has been lodged in a jail since then.
"Haroon Naik was present when Laden was giving an inspirational lecture on Jihad in August 2001," the sources said on condition of anonymity. Naik, according to them, was sent to Pakistan for terror training in 2001 by co-founder of home-grown terror group Indian Mujahideen member Riyaz Bhatkal.
"Naik underwent terror training - Daura-e-Aam and Daura-e-Khas in Pakistan and from there he was sent to Kandahar in Afganistan for additional training of 40 days", the sources added. Naik, who has a diploma in digital technology from ITI Ulhasnagar, fought alongside al Qaeda men in Afghanistan and it was before going to Kandahar that Laden gave the lecture to Naik and others in the group. The sources said it was during his training in Pakistan that Naik came to know Aftab Ansari and Sheikh Omar and met Lakhvi.