By Arun Kumar
A Pakistani-American key plotter of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has revealed that he decided to join Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) “full time” following the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Born Daood Gilani in the US to an American mother and a Pakistani father, David Coleman Headley makes the disclosure in a draft memoir made available to the makers of an “American Terrorist”, a TV documentary telecast Tuesday night.
Working with LeT, Headley, former drug smuggler turned informant for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, used his US passport to travel to India, scout locations for the plot, film them and even find a landing site for the plot’s attackers.
Writing about his first encounter with Lashkar militants, Headley, who is serving 35 years for his role in the Mumbai attack, describes how he was “very impressed with their dedication to the cause of the liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation.”
Headley’s memoir offers a unique window into his turn toward extremism, his training with LeT and his preparations for an abortive attack on a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, according to report by ProPublica and Frontline.
In one passage, Headley, who frequently visited Pakistan, writes: “On one of my trips, October 2000, I made my first contact with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), quite by accident. I attended their annual convection in November.
Marking his decision to join Lashkar “full time” following the 9/11 attacks, Headley says that by 2002 the group asked him to take “the Daura Aamma, the basic military training course offered by LeT.”
It was one of several training programmes he writes about, the report says noting “by 2005, Lashkar’s plans for Headley are coming into focus.”
“He is trained in explosives, but perhaps most importantly, Lashkar asks him to change the name given to him at birth by his Pakistani father and American mother – Daood Gilani.”
“He chooses David, which is English for Daood; Coleman, which was his grandfather’s name; and Headley, which was his mother’s maiden name,” the report said.
It was a bureaucratic act, but intelligence officials cited by the report say the change made Headley that much more difficult to track.
“Finally, in June, my immediate superior, Sajid Mir, instructed me to return to the United States, change my Muslim name to a Christian sounding name and get a new US passport under that name,” he writes.
“He now informed me I would be going to India, since I looked nothing like a Pakistani in appearance and spoke fluent Hindi and Urdu it would give me a distinct advantage in India,” Headley added.
Around the same time, Headley was conducting regular reconnaissance of targets in Mumbai.
On one trip, he checked into the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which would later be the epicentre of the Mumbai attack, with his new wife for a “honeymoon.”
The plan was to capture an Indian fishing vessel, which constantly strayed into Pakistani waters, and commandeer it all the way to Mumbai.
“The hope was that the Indian Coast Guard would not notice an Indian vessel. The boys would carry a GPS device which would guide them directly to the landing site, I had selected earlier,” he writes.
After the attack, Headley says he was told to “lay low.” Instead, he travelled to Denmark to scout the Jyllands-Posten newspaper for a possible strike.
But western intelligence soon learn of the plot, and close in on Headley. He was arrested on October 3 2009 at O’Hare Airport,Chicago on his way back to Pakistan.