New Delhi: David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born American terror operative and accused-turned-approver in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, on Monday confessed to being a “true follower" of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and said he joined the Pakistan-based outfit after hearing speeches by its founder Hafiz Saeed.

Headley also identified LeT chief Hafiz Saeed in a photograph shown to him in court, according to PTI news agency and television channels that covered his deposition via a video link from an undisclosed location in the US. “LeT is a militant organization in Pakistan, whose goal is to fight the Indian Army and assist the people of Kashmir. They carry out all terror activities in India," Headley reportedly told the court. “I joined Lashkar in 2002 for a course in Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-administered Kashmir), Lashkar’s headquarters. I heard a speech by Hafiz Saeed saab and was motivated," Headley said during the deposition.

This is the first time that someone with direct involvement in the 26/11 terror case has named Saeed in connection with the attack in which 166 people, including many foreign nationals, were killed.

Headley’s deposition will strengthen India’s position against Pakistan’s support for anti-India terror groups, special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam told reporters. “He revealed a lot about Major Iqbal and Major Ali, both of them were there in ISI (Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence). It was Major Iqbal who trained him and he also unravelled the names of a few LeT trainers before the court," PTI quoted Nikam as saying.

India has been urging Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks including Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, whom the Pakistani courts have set free, reportedly for the lack of clinching evidence.

Headley made several other critical disclosures in his first deposition before the Mumbai court since US authorities arrested him in October 2009.

He said the same gang of 10 who carried out the 26/11 attack had twice before tried to strike Mumbai but failed. The two failed attempts took place in September and October 2008, Headley said.

Headley also said he had made eight visits to India—seven before the Mumbai attack and once after. Previously, it was believed he had undertaken five visits to India to map out targets for the November 2008 assault.

It was disclosed earlier that Headley had made videos of two luxury hotels, a train station, a Jewish boarding house and a cafe in Mumbai, besides a popular bakery in Pune and the military installations in New Delhi and other places.

It was with the help of Headley’s reconnaissance videos that the Mumbai attack was planned.

Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence in the US for his role in the attacks, said he changed his name from Dawood Gilani to David Headley in 2006 so that he could enter India and set up a business without provoking any suspicion.

“I applied for change in name on 5 February 2006 in Philadelphia. I changed my name to David Headley to get a new passport under that name. I wanted a new passport so that I could enter India with an American identity," he was quoted as saying by PTI.

“After I got a new passport, I disclosed it to my colleagues in LeT, of which one of them was Sajid Mir, the person with whom I was dealing with. The objective for coming to India was to set up an office or business so that I can live in India. Before the first visit, Sajid Mir gave me instructions to make a general video of Mumbai," Headley told the court, according to PTI.

Headley also said that in his Indian visa application he had furnished “wrong" information “to protect his cover". He reportedly visited India many times between 2006 and 2008, drew maps, took video footage and scouted several targets for the attacks, including the Taj hotel, Oberoi hotel and the Jewish Chabad House. Headley’s deposition came after the Mumbai court made him an approver on 10 December.

The Mumbai police on 8 October moved an application before the court saying Headley deserves to be tried by the Mumbai court together with another 2008 Mumbai attack plotter, Abu Jundal, who was deported from Saudi Arabia in 2012. The two men are seen as co-conspirators and abettors of the terror attack.

The Mumbai police also said in its application that from the judgement passed by the US court against Headley, it was clear he was a member of LeT and had played an active role in the criminal conspiracy behind the attack. Given that he had entered a plea bargain with the US authorities in 2010, it was clear he had voluntarily agreed he was part of the conspiracy.

According to the Mumbai police, Headley is guilty of conspiring with LeT for committing illegal acts in India; waging war against the government of India and offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

A senior Mumbai police officer, instrumental in ensuring Headley was made an approver, said on condition of anonymity Headley’s statement before the court was “one of the most clinching evidences of Pakistan’s direct involvement in the attacks".

“If we had not taken the approver option, Headley probably would not have revealed so much. It is because the court has pardoned him that Headley has turned an approver and agreed to give his testimony. If we had insisted on his extradition, which was anyway very difficult, and trying him in the special court, the case would have dragged on without Headley ever revealing anything to an Indian court or investigating agency," the officer said.

Headley’s testimony via video link continues on Tuesday.

PTI contributed to this story.

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