Ishrat Ja­han was LeT mem­ber, says Headley

POLITICAL FALL­OUT BJP says vin­di­cated, Cong terms rev­e­la­tion sus­pi­cious

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Kan­chan Chaudhuri kan­chan.chaudhuri@hin­dus­tan­

MUM­BAI: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) op­er­a­tive David Cole­man Headley said on Thurs­day Maharashtra res­i­dent Ishrat Ja­han was a mem­ber of the mil­i­tant group’s fe­male wing, ig­nit­ing a row over a con­tro­ver­sial 2004 po­lice shootout that killed the 19-year-old woman.

A Gu­jarat Po­lice team shot dead Ja­han – a col­lege stu­dent in Thane district’s Mum­bra -- and three oth­ers on the out­skirts of Ahmed­abad, claim­ing she was on a mis­sion to kill then chief min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

Headley’s com­ments are in con­trast to mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tions that found the shootout had been staged and that Ja­han had no links with any mil­i­tant group.

Six years ago, Headley – who is de­pos­ing in a Mum­bai court via video con­fer­ence – re­port­edly told the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency that Ja­han was an LeT mem­ber but Thurs­day’s re­marks will now be ad­mis­si­ble as ev­i­dence in an on­go­ing trial into the killing of Ja­han.

The day’s pro­ceed­ings saw Headley say­ing the LeT had a fe­male wing, headed by the mother of a mil­i­tant, Abu Ai­man. “Are you aware of any fe­male sui­cide bomber from the LeT?” asked Ujjwal Nikam, the spe­cial pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor. Headley said he did not know any such woman but “Zaki Sa­heb” (LeT’s op­er­a­tional com­man­der Zaki- ur Rehman Lakhvi) had told him about a botched op­er­a­tion in In­dia. “It was a shoot-out with po­lice in some picket, and a fe­male mem­ber had died in it along with oth­ers,” Headley said, adding, “I do not re­mem­ber the name of the place.”

When Nikam asked about the woman’s name, Headley said he did not re­mem­ber. But, when the pros­e­cu­tor sug­gested three dif­fer­ent names — Noor­je­han Begum, Ishrat Ja­han and Mum­taj Begum — the 56-year-old said “I think it was the se­cond one, Ishrat Ja­han.” But Ja­han’s fam­ily re­jected the charges, say­ing she was not a ter­ror­ist and that Headley’s tes­ti­mony wasn’t re­li­able as he was a “ter­ror­ist”. “We have fought for 12 years, and we will still fight to clear Ishrat’s name,” her sis­ter Mus­sarat Ja­han told HT.

The fam­ily’s lawyer, Vrindra Grover, dis­missed the tes­ti­mony as “ex­tremely ma­nip­u­la­tive”. “The lawyer put words in Headley’s mouth,” she said. “Lawyer acts like he is host­ing ‘ Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and gave Headley op­tions. I mean, what is hap­pen­ing in the court?”

The de­vel­op­ment trig­gered a political storm, with the BJP say­ing its stand has been vin­di­cated af­ter a decade. “An im­por­tant con­fir­ma­tion of a fact that has been in pub­lic cir­cu­la­tion for a long time. Headley pointed to­wards Ishrat in 2013 but at that time there was at­tempt to not ac­cept truth as it was,” BJP leader Nalin Kohli told ANI. The Congress ap­peared to ques­tion the rev­e­la­tion.



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