The leadership of Pakistan’s ISI spy agency was not involved in planning the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, self-confessed plotter David Coleman Headley testified Tuesday.
Headley, who pleaded guilty to 12 terror charges arising out of the attacks on India’s financial capital and other unrealized plots, testified that no more than a handful of ISI agents were involved in the Mumbai plot.
“The colonel might have known and someone in the group might have known,” Headley told a Chicago court, referring to one of his alleged ISI handlers.
But when asked if he meant that neither the head of the ISI nor its senior leadership were involved, Headley testified “Yes.”
The Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed, stalled a fragile four-year peace process between India and Pakistan, two South Asian neighbors and nuclear-armed rivals, which was only resumed in February.
Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has long been suspected of involvement and three ISI agents were named as co-conspirators by US prosecutors following Headley’s 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport.
The trial comes amid a diplomatic crisis as Pakistan struggles to deflect suspicion of official complicity with terrorism after US commandos killed Osama bin Laden in an urban compound only 55 kilometers (35 miles) from Islamabad on May 2 after a decade-long manhunt.
Headley had previously testified that he believed the ISI worked closely with the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and detailed his relationship with an ISI handler identified as “Major Iqbal.”
However, Headley’s testimony on Tuesday supports Pakistan’s assertion that the ISI’s involvement was limited to a handful of rogue agents.
Headley is testifying against his childhood friend and alleged co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark.
The Washington-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and an American woman, Headley spent two years scouting Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city’s harbor to identify landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover. Economic Times