The government on Wednesday sanctioned the National Investigating Agency to file a chargesheet against nine accused for their role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. They include Pakistani-American Laskar-e-Tayiba terrorist David Coleman Headley, his accomplice Tawwahur Rana, Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar commanders Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Sajid Mir, Abdul Rehman Hashmi, Al Qaeda commander Illyas Kashmir and two Inter-Services Officials -- Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali.
What's ironic is that none of these accused will be tried in person. However, India feels that the NIA chargesheet will pressure Pakistan to crackdown on terror emanating from its soil.
None of the accused are in custody of the Indian police and when the trial begins they will have to be tried and convicted in absentia. The case built by the NIA largely depends on the statements of Headley. His confessions reveal the role played by the other eight in the Mumbai attacks as well as the ISI's 'Karachi Project' to carrying out attacks in India using locals through the LeT network.
However, NIA sources point out that the chargesheet is not a testimony of Headley alone. It includes a lot of information, which has been pieced together after thorough investigation of the attacks.
For three years now, India has been sending out dossiers to Pakistan about the 26/11 carnage, but the neighbours have only turned a blind eye to the home ministry. The NIA chargesheet against the nine persons and the mention of the Karachi Project is expected to give legitimacy to allegations made by the government against Pakistan. Moreover, the chargesheet will include testimonies by Headley, which have been certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The NIA chargesheet is looked at as a major step forward by India in the 26/11 case. But may questions still remain to be answered, especially those with regard to Headley's handler Sajid Mir, Major Samir Ali and Major Iqbal.
Indian investigators also agree that these three names would continue to pose a mystery, especially since Pakistan continues to deny their existence.
Leave alone an extradition, what would be a big step would be for Pakistan to agree about their existence.
NIA officials say that the chargesheet would not be the final stamp on the 26/11 investigation. However, they will also seek permission from the court to file an additional chargesheet in which they NIA plans to throw light on Rana's role in the attacks. Most information on Rana has been compiled from Headley's statements and the FBI's version of it. The NIA are looking to grill Rana in person.
There is also no clarity on Headley's 'mission' in India. The NIA chargesheet will include Headley's testimony, but investigators feel that it is important to question those people who Hedaley met while he was in India. This includes his estranged wife Faiza Outalha.
The NIA feels that she would be able to provide some additional details regarding the case and Headley's India visit. The NIA will now send a letter rogatory to the Government of Morocco so that it could gain access to her. Outalha is currently based in Morocco.
A lettor regatory has also been sent to the Italian court requesting for permission to interrogate the father son duo, Mohammad Yaqub Janjua and Aamer Yaquib Janjua. They were arrested by the Italian police for allegedly transferring $ 229 to to Callphonex VOIP, which was used by the 26/11 terrorists to communicate with each other.
The involvement of Abdul Al-Hooti, the Omani businessman, who allegedly raised money to fund the 26/11 attack also needs to be probed. The Indian police are in constant touch with their counterparts in Oman seeking information on Al-Hooti.
The NIA would also like to include the role played by Pakistani national Muhammad Athar Butt arrested in Bangkok in December last year, as part of an international operation to stamp out a huge cell that has been linked to the Mumbai attacks and the Madrid train bombings in 2004. Butt allegedly helped forge documents to facilitate passports of the operatives who travelled in and out of India in connection with the 26/11 attack.
The most recent angle that needs to be probed is the arrest of four people in the Philippines in November, who hacked into the accounts of AT&T business customers in the United States and diverted money to the LeT that financed the 26/11 attacks. It was believed that around 2 million dollars was generated through this operation.