According to the additional charges unsealed at a Chicago court that is hearing the case against Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October along with fellow LeT operative Tahawwur Hussain Rana, he could face the ‘‘maximum statutory penalty’’ of life imprisonment or death if convicted. Headley was charged on Monday in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of conspiracy to bomb places in India, murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, provide material support to the LeT, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India. According to the FBI, Headley travelled to Mumbai for extended periods starting in September 2006, February 2007, September 2007, April 2008 and July 2008, and before leaving for India, each time he received instructions from co-conspirators to take video surveillance of locations in and around Mumbai. Going by the FBI account, Headley conducted an extensive surveillance, taking pictures and making videotapes of various targets in India, including the Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, Leopold Cafe, Nariman House and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station and other places of public use, government facilities, public transport systems and infrastructure facilities. And following each trip to India, as the FBI said, Headley returned to Pakistan (the country of his origin), met co-conspirators and provided results of his surveillance, including oral descriptions of various locations. The other revelation is that the LeT along with Headley, determined to trigger an armed conflict between India and Pakistan, plotted a series of attacks on Jewish prayer halls in no less than five Indian cities. That Headley was a hardened terrorist stems from the fact that even after his close association with the 26/11 attacks, he made the choice of visiting India yet again with absolute impunity in search of soft targets. According to a report, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found that Headley did recce of the Chabad House (a Jewish centre) in Delhi that is barely 300m away from the two hotels — De Holiday Inn and Anand — where he stayed from March 7 to 10 before leaving for Pakistan to look for another Jewish target.
It is clear that Headley, under expert guidance from the LeT, was determined to help facilitate major terror strikes against India after 26/11, and had it not been for his arrest by the FBI, he might well have succeeded in his cowardly mission. But what is remarkable is his arrest by the FBI and indictment — look at the speed with which the FBI pursued the case, got to the bottom of it all, and precluded major terror attacks in India and Denmark. There is a lesson to be learned here, with Indian agencies still struggling to frame charges against Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahideen operatives responsible for a series of bomb blasts across the country in the past five years. Unlike the FBI, our agencies have simply failed the nation. Perhaps, unlike in the US, the Indian political leadership wants to be ‘politically correct’ even in the matter of countering terrorism, thus creating a very poor image of the country unwilling to take strong steps to stymie the growth of criminal jihad. After all, for many of our ‘secularists’, jihadi terrorism is only a myth, thanks to their brand of politics. THE SENTINEL