Pakistani-American Lashkar e-Taiba operative David Headley made a critical revelation on Thursday, saying Ishrat Jahan, who was killed in an encounter with the Gujarat police in 2004, was an LeT suicide bomber. Jahan, who was from Mumbra, Mumbai, has been at the centre of a political tussle, with her killing being declared a "fake encounter" by a state court. She received support from the Congress, which was the opposition party in the state, and several other politicians.
The Bharatiya Janata Party said the revelation was vindication for them, in particular for its president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP had insisted that Jahan and her associates were LeT members plotting an attack on Modi. They also said Congress' pursuit of the fake encounter narrative was "petty politics".
Headley has been continuing his deposition in a Mumbai court via videoconference. The deposition was postponed from the previous day because of a technical snag.
Here are the revelations coming in from court:
12.15 pm: Headley says Abu Khafa became his trainer and that Khafa's nephew was one of the 10 26/11 attackers.
Noon: Headley says Muzzammil Bhatt was the head of his LeT wing before Sajid Mir. Bhatt, he said, had planned to attack Akshardham temple in Gujarat after the Babri Masjid was demolished. Headley also said he had knew Abu Khafa, LeT’s second-in-command, and said he had met him in Lahore. Headley claimed he watched the media coverage of the 26/11 attacks with Sajid Mir in Rawalpindi. He claimed that at the time, Mir and Khafa were speaking to handlers in a Karachi control room.
11.20 am: Headley's admission to the court that Ishrat Jahan, who hailed from Mumbra, Mumbai, was an LeT suicide bomber has immediate reactions from politicians around the country. Jahan's killing had been declared a "fake encounter" by a local court, implicating Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah and then chief minister Narendra Modi. The BJP now claims to stand vindicated. Jahan's family and several politicians, especially from the Congress, had maintained that she was innocent, making her the centre of a prolonged political tussle.
10.40 am: Headley names Ishrat Jahan Raza, who was killed in an encounter with the Gujarat police in 2004, as a member of Lashkar e-Taiba. According to Headley, she was to become a suicide bomber. The Ishrat Jahan case is still being heard by the state's high court, after allegations emerged that the encounter was fake. The Gujarat police had claimed that Jahan and her three associates were LeT members plotting to kill then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Headley has made this claim several times in the past as well.
10.20 am: ANI reported that Headley used two-three phone numbers during his time in India. Headley used his passport, which had all kinds of fake details, to obtain these phone numbers, and was not suspected of any wrongdoing. In his communications with Rana, ISI agent Major Iqbal and LeT handler Sajir Mir, he used coded messages to keep his emails secure.
9.30 am: In 2008, Headley applied for an extension of his office licence and it was granted. However, the Reserve Bank of India did not allow him to open an account, he says. He adds that he wanted to close down the Tardeo office in 2009, after the attacks, but other operatives including Rana asked him to leave it open.
8.50 am: Headley says he opened an office inside the AC market in Mumbai's Tardeo in September 2006. Before arriving in India, he had received $25,000 from ISI's Major Iqbal in addition to 40,000 Pakistani rupees from LeT agent Sajid Mir, he says. He then details the money he received from old school friend and co-conspirator Dr Tahawwur Rana – he received Rs 66,605 in October, and another Rs 17,636 and $1,500 in November. He also received various smaller sums of money every few months, often in counterfeit Indian notes from Major Iqbal. All of the money came into IndusInd Bank's Nariman Point branch. Headley said Rana had visited Mumbai before the attack and that he asked Rana to return to safety in the US.
What we knew before Thursday:
In his previous statements, Headley outlined how the plans for the Mumbai 2008 attacks were made by the LeT in Pakistan, and gave critical evidence about the involvement of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Headley said the ISI provided the LeT moral, financial and military support. He also said that he had come to India to recce the spots they had planned to attack, including the Taj hotel and the Siddhivinayak temple.
According to PTI, India might ask Pakistan to try Headley before one of its courts via video-conferencing. “It is one of the actions which could be taken. A decision has to be taken at the highest level,” a senior government official said.