Chicago: A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in jail for helping a Pakistani militant group plot an attack on a Danish newspaper which sparked outrage with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 52, was convicted of letting a childhood friend use his immigration business as a cover while conducting surveillance at the newspaper for the banned Pakistan militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
David Coleman Headley, Rana’s old friend from military school in Pakistan, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport and was the star witness during the closely watched trial.
In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, Headley spent two years casing out 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.
He once again used Rana’s immigration service as a cover when he began plotting the attack on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September 2008.
Headley told jurors how Rana helped him pretend to set up a new office in Denmark so he could scope out the newspaper’s offices by scheduling meetings with the advertising department.
The plan was to use Headley’s surveillance tapes and notes to gain access to the building before killing and beheading as many people as possible, throwing the severed heads out of the windows to draw in the police.
The Copenhagen plot was eventually aborted, both because of the intense pressure in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks and due to a lack of funds, weapons and manpower.
But not before the FBI was able to secretly capture a conversation between Rana and Headley in which they discussed the plot and plans for further attacks in India.
A jury found there was insufficient evidence to prove that Rana was involved in the Mumbai plot but convicted him in 2010 two counts of providing material support to terrorists for the Danish plot.
The trial was closely watched as it touched on alleged Pakistani military intelligence collusion with extremists—a hugely sensitive issue after Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing sparked similar charges.
Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has long been suspected of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, and three ISI agents were named as co-conspirators by US prosecutors.
Headley testified that the ISI’s involvement in the Mumbai plot was limited to a handful of rogue agents, but that the agency worked closely with the militants of Pakistan’s LeT.
The Mumbai attacks stalled a fragile four-year peace process between India and Pakistan, two South Asian neighbours and nuclear-armed rivals.
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 either India, Pakistan or Denmark to face related charges.
He faces a sentencing hearing on 24 January.