Chicago: A Chicago businessman charged with providing support in the planning and coordination of the 2008 Mumbai attacks said the Indian people got what they deserved, a court heard Tuesday.
“They deserved it,” Pakistani-Canadian suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana said upon hearing of the attack, according to David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American who spent months sizing up targets in Mumbai.
“I told him we were even with the Indians right now,” Headley said of his conversation with Rana about the late 2008 attacks that killed 166 people.
Rana, who stands accused of providing Headley with a cover and acting as a messenger, had sought revenge against the Indian people for a 1971 attack at the military school where the two men met, Headley said.
Headley is the star witness in the US government’s case against Rana, and outlined for a second day his planning of the attacks and meetings with a shadowy group of associates with ties to banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
One of the overriding questions of the trial is what ties LeT had to the ISI, Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence.
Headley testified Monday that he was under the impression they were working together.
The proceedings are likely to add fuel to a diplomatic crisis over suspicions of official Pakistani complicity with terrorism after US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on 2 May in a northwestern garrison city deep in Pakistan.
Headley has revealed details about his relationship with an ISI handler identified as “Major Iqbal” who gave him $25,000 to help cover the cost of his surveillance work.
In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, 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.
The Washington-born militant said he was given a GPS device to locate possible targets, including Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel, the eventual site of the attacks in addition to the headquarters of the right-wing political party Shiv Sena.
Headley also scouted out airport and bus terminals as well as Jewish Chabad houses in three Indian cities, which were thought to be homes for the Israeli intelligence units. He toured Indian nuclear power plants, but there was never a formal plan to attack them.
To blend in, Headley took video of the locations so he would be seen as a tourist.
After the Mumbai attacks, Headley met with Rana in December 2008 in Canada, where Rana also has citizenship, and told him of plans to attack a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
“Lashkar wanted to plan something,” Headley said, adding when asked about the cartoons, “We were all infuriated.”
After the Mumbai bombings, Headley and an associate went to Waziristan in Pakistan’s lawless northwestern mountainous frontier, to meet with an al-Qaeda representative about plans to bomb Denmark.
In June 2009, Headley said he met with Rana about the plot.
Rana “thought it would be a huge event in the media,” Headley said.
A twice convicted drug dealer, Headley formally admitted to 12 terror charges in March 2010 after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty or to allow him to be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark on related charges.
The Mumbai attacks 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.
Rana insisted after his 2009 arrest that he was a pacifist “duped” into letting his old friend use his immigration services company as a cover.
His attorney Charlie Swift says he plans to show that Headley duped Rana and his credibility is suspect.
The prosecution was expected to wrap up its questioning of Headley on Wednesday and cross-examination is due to begin afterward or Thursday.