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'Headley's plea to live the American life laughable'

January 25, 2013 10:53 IST

An NIA official, who was part of the team that interrogated David Headley in FBI custody, tells Vicky Nanjappa that the Pakistani-American terrorist was beaming with pride each time they asked him about his association with the Lashkar and also his role in the 26/11 attacks.

Despite the refusal by the United States of America, India will continue to press for the extradition of Pakistani American Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist David Headley, who was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for his role in 26/11 attacks and a foiled bid to strike a Danish newspaper.

However, officials in the National Investigation Agency maintain that this is a mere formality and top on their priority list would be to complete the trial against Headley and convict him as per the laws in India.

The extradition bid would continue on the diplomatic levels, but the NIA says that the trial against him would commence soon and the same would be conducted through video conferencing. However, prior to the commencement of the trial in the special court at New Delhi, the NIA would look to question him once more.

Although Headley has confessed everything possible barring his role as a double agent in FBI custody, the NIA feels that there are still some answers that he could provide regarding the larger role of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

“It is very important that he and Tahawwur Rana be questioned to ascertain more details on the attack,” sources in the NIA point out, adding they would first want to question Rana and only then seek a second access to Headley.

Headley’s journey:

A NIA officer who was part of the interrogation team explains that Headley was not an easy person to question.

“He was focused and very often he hurled abuses at us since he loathed the Indians.”

The NIA official says that it was laughable when he told the US court in Chicago that he should be given a chance to live the American way, thus indicating that he would change.

“Headley was beaming with pride each time we asked him about his association with the Lashkar and also his role in the 26/11 attacks. He repeatedly said that the Lashkar trusted him a lot as he was dedicated, committed and was ready to prove his hatred towards India,” the NIA officer says.

“I was imparted the Daura-e-Amma and Daura-e-Sufa training programmes which helped me gain belief in Salafi Islam and also radical ideology. I was taught along with 40 others the ways of Islam, and the training programme towards my complete radicalisation lasted three months,” Headley told the interrogators.

“Death was no big deal for Headley,” the officer points out.

“Headley had doubts about taking out lives, but all through the programme he was told that it was an act of worship. It was drilled into his head that killing anyone who opposed Muslims was an act of worship and this was real Jihad,” the official notes.

“During the training programme I was taught on how to hate India. I was repeatedly shown footage of the Gujarat riots and how the government in India had safeguarded those who had killed Muslims. This instilled a sense of rage within me and hence I felt no remorse when I scouted those targets knowing fully well what the outcome of my actions would be. The speeches made by (late Shiv Sena supremo) Bal Thackeray were very much part of the training programme,” Headley also told his interrogators.

“I also met with various officers of the Pakistan military. During my stint in Muzafarabad, I met with Abdur Rehman from the Pakistan navy who imparted training. I was taught urban warfare skills, two-man firing from cover, reloads and also situational training,” Headley said.

The NIA official says that all through the questioning, Headley smiled, looked confident and there was absolutely no sense of remorse. “He sprung names of the friends that he had made in India and every time we looked at him, he always said, ‘there is no need to look that surprised’” the officer says.

Headley was first questioned by the FBI but in comparison to that interrogation the one with the NIA was entirely different. NIA officials say that he was confident and was not one bit nervous.

“Headley knew he had the protection of the plea bargain behind him and hence he sang like a parrot to every question that we asked him.”

NIA officials say that he is extremely well-trained and even the manner in which he went about the entire process shows the level of skill he had. He stuck to the point and it was tough to make him talk anything other than what he had already confessed.

However what took the NIA officials by surprise was the manner in which he mocked them. This statement in particular was the most shocking, “Why have you come to question me? The attack was planned in your backyard and you did not have any idea of it,” Headley had said while laughing.

Headley also signed off with a warning to the NIA officials. He admitted to surveying 30 targets, but also confused them by stating that there could be 100 more targets on the radar.

The Lashkar has also trained women suicide bombers who will carry out an attack on the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport and Bhendi Bazar in Mumbai. However this part of the interrogation remained vague and Headley refused to divulge more, the official adds.

 

Vicky Nanjappa