American visited Mumbai 7 times before ’08 attack

Nirmala George
Associated Press

New Delhi — A Pakistani-American who helped plan a 2008 attack on India’s financial hub told a court Monday that he traveled to India seven times to scout potential targets for a Pakistan-based militant group.

David Coleman Headley gave the Indian court in Mumbai details of his role in planning the attack, in which more than 160 people were killed over three days when a group of 10 men rampaged across the city.

Headley repeated statements that he has made earlier that Pakistan’s main spy agency was deeply involved in planning the attack’s preparations and execution.

Headley said he supplied his handlers in the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba with videos and maps of luxury hotels, a Jewish center and the city’s main railway station that were attacked, Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam told reporters after Monday’s five hours of testimony.

Headley testified that Lashkar-e-Taiba had tried to launch attacks in India twice earlier without success, said Nikam, who questioned him. The third attempt was the November 2008 attack, Headley said.

Nikam said Headley told the court that in one attempt, a boat in which the men were traveling overturned after hitting rocks and their weapons were lost at sea.

Headley said he joined Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 and he and other recruits underwent many years of training in Pakistan, where they were taught the use of weapons and bomb making.

Headley, born of a Pakistani father and an American mother, told the court that his name was Dawood Gilani, but he changed it to David Coleman Headley in 2006 to facilitate his travel to India.

Nikam said Headley used his U.S. passport to travel frequently to India without raising suspicion and was able to give Lashkar-e-Taiba information that was used to plan and carry out the attack.

He said Headley told the court that officials from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence were involved. Pakistan insists that ISI has no links to Lashkar-e-Taiba and denies any connection to the Mumbai violence.

Nikam told reporters that “Headley has given us valuable information,” but declined to comment on the testimony about ISI, saying it was up to the government of India to take it up with the government of Pakistan.

Headley testified by video conference from an undisclosed location in the United States, where he is serving a 35-year prison term for his role in the Mumbai attack.

The Mumbai court investigating the attack gave Headley a conditional pardon in December, which allowed him to become a witness.


This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Lashkar-e-Taiba.