After examining over 300 witnesses and collecting loads of evidence, the National Investigation Agency on Saturday filed an exhaustive chargesheet in a special NIA court in Delhi against the main conspirators and handlers of the 26/11 terror attacks, including David Coleman Headley his accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana and seven Pakistani citizens.
All the nine accused have been charged under the Indian Penal Code for hatching a criminal conspiracy to wage a war against India, murder, forgery, cheating and using as genuine a forged document or electronic record and various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Special NIA court judge HS Sharma will take cognisance of the chargesheet on January 7 thereby starting one of the keenest trials to watch that could expose Pakistan state actors’ active role and complicity in bleeding India under the notorious Karachi Project.
The accused include Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, top LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, LeT commander Sajid Majid, Headley’s coordinator Abdur Rehman Hasim, two serving Pakistani Army officers employed with the ISI — Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali — and Illyas Kashmiri of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI).
The NIA said, “The evidence was collected from several sources such as banks, hotels, airlines, internet service providers and telephone service providers. The investigation of the case presented unique challenges because all the accused persons were foreign nationals.”
The conspiracy was hatched in or around 2005 to organise “spectacular terrorist attacks on sensitive iconic targets” in India over a long period of time by Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Ilyas Kashmiri with active support and encouragement from Major Sameer Ali and Major Iqbal.
Headley and Rana, both members of LeT, were placed in a position where they could work for providing tactical, material and financial support in planning and carrying out terrorist attacks in India and other places.
Both Headley and Rana had graduated from the Hassan Abdal Military College in Pakistan and both wanted to participate in Jihad against India and Western powers.
Avoiding Headley’s escapades as a double agent, the NIA said that in the US he was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for being involved in contraband drugs smuggling.
When the LeT and the HUJI planned attacks in India, Headley — With his Caucasian looks and American citizenship — became the obvious choice for collection of critical data, information required for planning and executing terror attacks.
As Headley’s original name (Dawood Gilani) could have aroused suspicion, the name was changed, a new passport was obtained and false information submitted to obtain long-term multiple entry business visa to India.
After obtaining visa, Headley made several trips to India between September 14, 2006 and March 15, 2009 to conduct tactical surveillance of potential targets of terrorist attacks.
He collected tactical details including video footages of all places which were attacked on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai. The NIA maintained that to carry out reconnaissance Headley befriended several individuals who had no knowledge about his activities.
Rana, a Canada citizen, has also been charged with providing Headley financial resources and other support for running an office in Mumbai. Rana visited India on November 13, 2008 and left Mumbai in haste on just six days before the terror attack.
The US government transferred some essential evidence collected by the FBI in the Headley-Rana case to India, which forms a part of the chargesheet, the NIA said.
The special court has sent a Letter of Request under CrPC section 166 (A) for transfer of evidence from Pakistan. The NIA has also requested the court to grant it permission for completing pending investigation in Pakistan and collection of further evidences.