Ishrat Jahan was LeT member, says Headley
POLITICAL FALLOUT BJP says vindicated, Cong terms revelation suspicious
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.
CONTINUED ON P14
RELATED REPORTS, P15