American charged in Mumbai massacre plot
An American citizen traveled to Mumbai multiple times in recent years to scout potential targets and entry points for the 10 Islamist guerrillas who killed 166 people last year during a severalday terrorist attack, federal authorities said Dec. 7.
David Coleman Headley, who already stood accused of plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that published the notorious Muhammad cartoons, is the first American charged in the Mumbai attacks.
Authorities with the Justice Department say Mr. Headley, who is cooperating with counterterrorism investigators, admitted to taking part in the Mumbai plot.
Mr. Headley, 49, was charged Dec. 7 in federal court in Chicago with conspiracy to bomb places of public use in India, conspiracy to murder and maim in India, and murder in the deaths of six U.S. nationals in India.
The charges were filed in a document known as a criminal information, which typically signals that a defendant plans to plead guilty. Mr. Headley is being held in federal prison in Illinois.
The six Americans — Ben Zion Chroman; Gavriel Holtzberg; Sandeep Jeswani; Alan Scherr; his daughter, Naomi Scherr; and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum — were killed by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist group that aims to expel India from the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Authorities said the group called on Mr. Headley in 2005 to help plot the attack.
Mr. Headley, a U.S.-born Muslim of Pakistani descent, was named Daood Gilani at the time, authorities said. But he changed his name so that he could travel to India and appear to be an American with no relationship either to Islam or to Pakistan.
During multiple trips to Mumbai between 2006 and 2008, authorities said, Mr. Headley took photographs and recorded video of the Taj Mahal hotel, the Oberoi hotel, and other locations in the city that ultimately became the targets of machine-gun and grenade attacks.
Authorities said Mr. Headley also took boat trips and recorded video around Mumbai harbor, which ultimately served as the launching site for the attack.
Mr. Headley traveled to Pakistan after his trips to India to meet other members of Lashkare-Taiba and give them the images he had taken and describe the various locations he had scouted. Authorities said Mr. Headley’s relationship with the terrorist group began several years earlier and that he had attended multiple training camps in Pakistan beginning in 2002.
The 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba guerrillas were all from Pakistan; nine were killed by Indian commandos, and one was captured alive.
Mr. Headley returned to India earlier this year to scout for future possible targets, including the National Defense College in Delhi, authorities said.
Each time he returned to India, authorities said, Mr. Headley used the same cover story: He was looking for new locations for First World Immigration Services, an American immigration-services company.
Authorities said Mr. Headley used the same cover story when he traveled to Denmark as part of the plot to attack the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which published a dozen cartoons in 2005 that many Muslims found offensive, including one in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad has a bomb nestled in the turban on his head.
The owner of the immigration business, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a 48-year-old Pakistani national and Canadian citizen, also has been charged in that plot, which investigators said the conspirators dubbed “The Mickey Mouse Project.”
Mr. Headley was apprehended Oct. 3 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport before boarding a flight to Philadelphia. Authorities say his final destination was Pakistan.
In his luggage, investigators say they found a phone number for Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired major in the Pakistani army who is a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Authorities say he was involved in plotting the attack against the newspaper.
Mr. Syed was indicted Dec. 7 in U.S. court on charges of conspiracy to murder and maim persons in a foreign country, and providing material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy.
Mr. Syed is not in custody and is thought to be living in Pakistan. The indictment says he had been arrested by Pakistani authorities last summer, but was later released. The indictment does not describe the details of his arrest or release.
Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard sits in the offices of Danish newspaper JyllandsPosten, which published cartoons that outraged many Muslims. The newspaper office is said to have been targeted by a purpor ted Mumbai massacre plotter.