MUMBAI: In a significant claim, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley today said that Ishrat Jahan --who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004 in Gujarat--was actually a suicide bomber of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.
The disclosure is likely to ignite a fresh row about the controversial encounter.
Testifying via video-link from the US, Headley spilled the beans on the 19-year-old girl from Mumbra and picked up her name when quizzed by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam about a "botched up operation" mentioned to him (Headley) by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.
Headley told the court that Lakhvi had mentioned to him about a "botched-up operation" conducted in India by another LeT operative Muzammil Butt where a female member of the terror outfit was killed. Prodded by Nikam to elaborate on the operation and the members involved in it, Headley said, "(I was told) It was a shootout with police in which a (female) suicide bomber was killed."
To which the prosecutor prompted three names of which Headley picked up Jahan before telling the court that "there is a female wing in LeT and one Abu Aiman's mother headed it."
Four persons- Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. The city crime branch had then said that those killed in the encounters were LeT terrorists and had landed in Gujarat to kill then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The CBI, which took over the probe from the Gujarat High Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), had filed charge sheet in August 2013 saying that the encounter was fake and executed in the joint operation by the city crime branch and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB).
In further disclosures, the 55-year-old, who recently turned approver in the 26/11 case, also told the court that that LeT operative Muzammil Butt was the head of his (Headley's) group before Sajid Mir. He told the court that a person, whom he identified as Abu Dujuna introduced him to Muzammil.
Headley said that he and Muzammil had once visited Kashmir to fight against the Indian troops.
Earlier in the day, Headley exposed how ISI and LeT majorly funded terror operations in India and financed him from time to time and that Pakistan native Tahawwur Rana visited Mumbai before the terror strikes in November 2008, which left 166 people dead and 309 injured.