MUMBAI: American terror agent David Headley on Thursday named Ishrat Jahan, a student who was killed in an alleged encounter with the Gujarat Police near Ahmedabad in 2004, as an operative of the terrorist organisation, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Headley mentioned Ishrat’s name during the questioning by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam. The senior counsel had asked him whether there were female suicide bombers in the LeT and if he could name anyone. Headley replied in the negative to both the questions.
Subsequently, Nikam asked him if there was a ‘botched up’ operation in India. To this, Headley replied in the affirmative and said that he had heard about it when he was listening to a conversation between LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and his subordinate Muzaammil Bhat. Headley said, “Later, I asked Muzaammil. He said that there was a female member of the LeT killed in a police shootout at a naka.” Nikam then asked him to mention the name of the female LeT member. Unsure, Headley did not answer immediately. Nikam then gave him three options — Noor Begum, Ishrat Jahan and Mumtaz. Headley then named Ishrat.This is not for the first time that Headley has named Ishrat as an LeT operative. He had named her during a trial in the Chicago court in the US as well.
Following Headley’s revelation about Ishrat, a big political fight broke out on Thursday. While the BJP and Shiv Sena demanded action against those who had backed Ishrat, the Congress and NCP maintained that only the Supreme Court could decide whether she was a terrorist. Ishrat’s family and some activists raised doubts as to whether Headley was trustworthy.
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari demanded that action be taken against NCP leaders Vasant Davkhare and Jitendra Awhad for backing Ishrat.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said that some people tried to glorify Ishrat. “Now they have fallen flat on their faces,” he said.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, who is fighting a case in the Supreme Court on behalf of Ishrat’s family against the encounter, said Nikam’s question to Headley had nothing to do with the 26/11 case. “I don’t know why suddenly these questions were put. They can have a political relevance but they can have no relevance to the 26/11 case,” she said.
Pakistani-American terror agent David Headley on Thursday revealed the money trail behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on the city. He told the special court that ISI official Major Iqbal had paid him $25,000 before he landed in the city to carry out planning of the attacks.
“I also got Rs 40,000 in Pakistani currency from (LeT operative) Sajid Mir between April and June 2008. Major Iqbal used to regularly send me money in instalments. He also gave me counterfeit Indian currency once or twice in 2008. Abdul Rehman Pasha, (another ISI official) also gave me Rs 80,000,” Headley said during his deposition from US via video link.
He said the RBI had turned down his request to open a bank account for an office, to be jointly operated by him and his schoolmate Tahawuur Rana, who had an immigration business in Chicago. Rana had asked Raymond Sanders, who ran an immigrant law centre in Chicago, to submit an application to RBI to open a bank account for their office in India.
He also told the court that he knew Haji Ashraf, a businessman in Lahore who was in charge of the finance wing of LeT.
“Rana used to send me money from the US in September 2006 when I came to India to do intelligence work on the instruction of LeT. It was my idea to open an office in India as a cover. Iqbal told me that if Rana was reluctant to be associated with this (India operations) then he (Headley) should appeal to his (Rana’s) sense of patriotism towards Pakistan. Rana was not reluctant and he agreed readily for me to go to India,” Headley said.
Headley told the court that he opened his immigration office at the AC market area in Tardeo on September 14, 2006. “I received Rs 17,636 on November 30 and $1000 on December 4, 2006 from Rana. On November 7, 2006, I again received $500 from him (from US). I received all this through Nariman Point branch of IndusInd Bank,” he told the court.
He also said the contents he had mentioned in the agreement with the landlord of his office were true. He applied for extension of the licence on July 16, 2008 and it was granted.
IndusInd Bank has maintained that it had handed over cash to Headley and had not opened any account in his name. In a release, the bank stated: “In 2006, the Bank, under a money transfer arrangement, duly approved by regulators, handled a few inward remittances under the Money Transfer Service Scheme (MTSS) in the normal course of business, in October-November. As per the regulatory guidelines in force, cash was handed over to David Headley after completing due diligence. The Bank obtained the required documents, including a copy of his passport, issued by the US authorities, and valid from March 2006 to March 2016. There were investigations by national agencies between 2009 and 2011 and the KYC documents were produced before them. The Bank wishes to reiterate that it has not opened any account in the name of David Headley, and has not handled any other business for him.”
The 55-year-old LeT operative also revealed that Rana had visited Mumbai before the terror attacks but he advised him to leave because he afraid that he would be in danger.
Headley disclosed that another LeT operative Abu Kahfa was in continuous touch with the 10 terrorists who had attacked the city. “Abu Kahfa was talking to them along with Sajid Mir from a control room in Karachi and was giving them instructions. Kahfa’s nephew was one of the 10.”
He said Mir was happy after the terror attacks. “I met him in Rawalpindi after the attacks. He told me that he was very happy with the attacks. Even I felt very happy,” Headley said.
He also said that the LeT had planned attacks on the famous Akshardham temple in Gujarat to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition.
Need to Re-study Case, says NCP leader
NCP leader Jitendra Awhad said he needed to re-study the case. “I am not bothered about whether or not she was a terrorist. My point is the encounter in which she was killed was fake. Why Gujarat Police did not catch her alive?” he asked.
SC will decide if ishrat was a terrorist: Cong
The BJP and Shiv Sena on Thursday demanded action against those who had spoken against the Ishrat Jahan encounter, whereas the Congress and NCP maintained that the Supreme Court would decide whether she was a terrorist. Ishrat’s family and some activists raised doubt whether Headley was trustworthy. Congress spokesperson Al-Naseer Zakaria said that the government could not blindly trust a terrorist (Headley).