The masterminds of the Nov 2008 Mumbai terror attack are still free because the indictment of a serving Pakistani intelligence officer had a really damaging effect on the US-Pakistani relationship, a new investigative report says.
It was because of the evidence of admitted Pakistani American terrorist David Coleman Headley during the trial of his boyhood friend Tahawwur Rana on charges of helping to plot the Mumbai attacks that Major Iqbal was indicted, says Sebastian Rotella, who works for investigative newsgroup Pro Publica.
‘Because of his evidence, the US attorney’s office in Chicago indicted (Pakistani intelligence official) Major Iqbal, which is the first time you have a serving Pakistani intelligence officer charged in the murder of Americans,’ Rotella said in an interview published Tuesday.
‘It’s had a really damaging (effect) on the US-Pakistani relationship, and I think really helped change the way a lot of people in the US government see their relationship with US security forces,’ he says, ‘partially because three years have gone by, and except for a couple of token arrests, the masterminds (behind Mumbai) are free.’
Headley’s role in the Mumbai attack is the subject of a new Frontline documentary by Rotella, ‘A Perfect Terrorist’, which airs on PBS Tuesday.
The son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, Headley was chosen for the mission because he looked like a non-Muslim Westerner, says Rotella. He used those looks – and his US passport – to plan logistics for several of the places attacked in Mumbai.
Before Headley became a terrorist, he was became a drug smuggler, then a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) informant in exchange for a lighter sentence.
He later hooked up with Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group behind the Mumbai attack, and started taking unauthorised trips to Pakistan in 2000 and 2001.
The DEA was initially unaware that Headley was becoming radical in his beliefs. They recruited him to help with anti-terrorism activities in New York, says Rotella.
But when Headley returned to Pakistan and started training with Lashkar-e-Taiba, his goal wasn’t to send information back to the United States.
‘He’s actually training for real,’ says Rotella. ‘He’s learning everything from basic counterterrorism to surveillance to survival [skills]. He’s becoming a holy warrior.’
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)