Chicago terror suspects investigated in India

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2009 3:30 AM

Two Chicago men accused of developing what federal prosecutors call a blueprint for a terrorist assault on a Danish newspaper also are being investigated for possible involvement in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, according to authorities in that country.

David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, are accused of plotting to kill one of the editors and a cartoonist at Danish paper Jyllands-Posten for publishing 12 cartoons in 2005 depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which ignited outrage in much of the Muslim world. They were arrested last month.

The FBI has said only that it has evidence Headley and Rana were in contact with the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the Indian government blames for the Mumbai attacks that left 166 dead and 308 wounded. U.S. authorities say Headley was in contact with the group while he allegedly carried out reconnaissance this year near the newspaper offices in Copenhagen. They say Rana last year advised a member of the group on how to slip people into the U.S.

Officials in India say Headley also may have been involved in planning the Mumbai attacks during a visit to India before the attacks.

"We are investigating in the Indian cities where he went and whom he met," India's home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, told reporters last week.

Chidambaram said authorities began investigating both Headley and Rana last week. He did not provide further details. The U.S. attorney's office would not comment.

Attorneys for Headley declined to comment Wednesday on reports about India's investigation or the U.S. charges against their client.

Rana's defense attorney, Patrick Blegen, has said he may be an innocent dupe of Headley, whom he may have met when both attended a school in Pakistan. The FBI claims Rana helped arrange Headley's travel.

Headley is a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 to get across international boundaries without too many questions at customs, according to an FBI affidavit.

He and Rana, a Pakistani immigrant to Canada who has lived in Chicago for a decade, are charged in criminal complaints with conspiring to provide material support to terrorism and providing material support to terrorism. They will not enter pleas until they are indicted.

Blegen said his client would deny the charges if asked.

For now, the only firm association the FBI is indicating between the men and the Pakistani terrorist organization is related to the alleged plot against the paper, although they say the men talked about possible attacks on other foreign targets.

According to court papers, Rana had a discussion with a someone affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba in late 2008 who was identified only as Individual B. The discussion, conducted by e-mail, included a warning from Rana not to use student visas to get people into the country.

Federal officials also have outlined a chronology of communications between Headley and Pakistan-based terrorist groups that begins in December 2008, the month after the Mumbai attacks, and continues until just before his arrest. The FBI says Headley traveled to Pakistan this year and may have been headed there when he was arrested Oct. 3 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport en route to Philadelphia.

According to an FBI affidavit, Headley admitted working with Lashkar-e-Taiba, knowing that it had been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization, and with Ilyas Kashmiri, a leader of another Pakistan-based terrorist organization, Harakat ul Jihad Islami.

Headley allegedly told the FBI that individuals supplied by Kashmiri were to carry out the attack on the newspaper. Kashmiri is described in a State Department report as a commander of terrorist forces in Kashmir and a former commander in the Afghan jihad.

Experts say both groups were born out of the decades-old friction between Pakistan and India, particularly over the disputed territory of Kashmir, and have a long history of violence.

"These are two very lethal groups," says Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser for fighting terrorism.

Federal prosecutors also have made it clear that they intercepted numerous phone conversations and e-mails between Headley and a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, whom they identified in court papers as Individual A. The two men allegedly talked of the planned attack in Denmark, which they called "the Mickey Mouse Project" and "the northern project," according to court papers.

From Denmark, Headley allegedly traveled to Pakistan, where he met with Individual A and visited the Federally Administered Tribal Area in northwest Pakistan to meet with Kashmiri. He returned to Chicago in mid-June, the court papers say.

The papers allege that after his return to Chicago, Headley communicated with another person identified as Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A, who said he had "new investment plans." Investigators say that referred to a terrorist attack other than the Danish one.

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Associated Press Writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.