Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, the federal government’s key witness in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, testified Monday that he first started training more than a decade ago with a Pakistani militant group that got assistance from Pakistan’s main intelligence agency.
The trial of businessman Tahawwur Rana is being closely watched worldwide for what testimony might reveal about suspected links between the Pakistani militant group blamed in the attack on Mumbai and Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, which has been under increased scrutiny since Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.
David Coleman Headley is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to taking photos and videos of targets in Mumbai before the 26/11 rampage. Rana is accused of providing cover for Headley by allowing him to use his Chicago-based immigration services business as a cover when he travelled to India.
Headley, Rana’s long-time friend from boarding school, told jurors on Monday that he received weapons and leadership training with the militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba since 2000 and it was his understanding that the LeT and Pakistan’s ISI agency coordinated with each other in general. Headley said that when Lashkar leaders began talking about a possible attack in India, he suggested that he get involved.
“I suggested that I change my name and make a new passport to make it easy to enter India undetected,” Headley testified.
Rana, 50, has pleaded not guilty and his attorneys say their client was simply taken advantage of by his longtime friend. Defence attorney Charles Swift told jurors during opening statements that Headley was a “manipulative man” who “balanced multiple lives” including working for the LeT, ISI and the US DEA at the same time. But assistant US attorney Sarah Steicker said Rana was not duped and knew of the plans. Streicker said the government will show jurors evidence, including emails between Headley and Rana that were written in code. She said Headley considered Rana “his best friend in the world”. Asian Age