New Delhi: Pakistani-born American terrorist David Coleman Headley on Thursday claimed that Ishrat Jahan, who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004 in Gujarat, was a suicide bomber of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The revelation is likely to ignite a fresh row around the controversial encounter and have political ramifications.

Headley, who testified via video-link from the US, spoke about the 19-year-old Mumbra girl when quizzed by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam about a “botched-up operation" mentioned to Headley by LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.

The “botched-up operation" in India was conducted by another LeT operative Muzammil Butt, and saw a female member of the terror outfit killed.

Prodded by Nikam to elaborate on the operation and those involved in it, Headley said, “(I was told) it was a shootout with the police in which a (female) suicide bomber was killed."

When the prosecutor suggested three names, Headley picked Jahan’s before telling the court that “there is a female wing in LeT and one Abu Aiman’s mother headed it".

The government has welcomed Headley’s comments whereas the Congress party was quick to attack the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) saying that “rule of law does not permit fake encounters".

“Whatever revelations have come, all are good for the government of India, security agencies and prosecution," minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told reporters when asked to comment on Headley’s remarks on Jahan.

“His (Headley’s) revelations are giving right direction to the investigating agencies and prosecution. It is good for all of us," he said.

“…if the current government or the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) wants to use David Coleman Headley’s testimony to justify an encounter which a court-monitored investigation has found to be fake, then I am afraid, neither the law nor jurisprudence allows it. If a person is a ‘terrorist’, he needs to be arrested, he needs to be tried, he needs to be brought to justice like Afzal Guru was brought to justice or Ajmal Kasab was brought to justice. But to try and justify a fake encounter, I am afraid, is something which the law does not permit," Manish Tewari, spokesperson of the Congress party, told reporters.

Four people—Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar—were killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on 15 June 2004. The city crime branch had said that those killed in the encounters were LeT terrorists who had landed in Gujarat to kill then chief minister Narendra Modi.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which took over probe from the Gujarat high court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), filed a chargesheet in August 2013 and said that the encounter was fake and executed in a joint operation by the city crime branch and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB).

Union minister Nitin Gadkari, in an interaction with Mint staffers during Mint Conversations, on Thursday said that those involved in terror activities should be dealt with factors like religion and caste playing no role.

“In the best interests of the nation, every government should enquire and take decisions on matters involving extremists and terrorist organisations… Terrorists are terrorists and they do not have any religion, caste or language. An accused is an accused and does not have any religion or caste," he said.

Close