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Bashir, who helped David Headley in Mumbai, is a free man

Last updated on: August 07, 2014 14:27 IST

Bashir, who helped David Headley in Mumbai, is a free man

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Vicky Nanjappa.Rediff.com

Intelligence sources tell Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com how investigators overlooked an important aspect of the 26/11 case. A key suspect, who helped Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley gather information for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has never been captured.

During his interrogation, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley told American investigators that a man named Bashir escorted him from the time he arrived in Mumbai for the first time on September 14, 2006 (Headley stayed in India till December 14, 2006), and on his subsequent visits in 2008 and 2009 as well.

Bashir, according to sources, rented an apartment near the Sterling Cinema in south Mumbai. Headley then stayed at the Outram Hotel near Bashir's apartment.

When Headley returned in 2008 and 2009 -- when he conducted surveys of possible attack sites in Delhi and Pune -- he sought Bashir's help. The two men surveyed the German Bakery and Osho Ashram in Pune. Whatever material Headley collected, he dropped it off at Bashir's home in Mumbai.

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Image: A rabbi framed against a wall with bullet holes at Nariman House, one of the targets of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff/com

On his return to Mumbai from Pune in 2009, David Headley visited Bashir's home to collect the material and some of his luggage.

'From Pune I went to Mumbai,' Headley told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. 'I also went to a cyber cafe and accessed my mail. I went to see a movie in the same theatre which I had visited in 2008. After the movie, I went to Bashir's house and took some stuff from the luggage. Bashir told me his immigration to Canada was almost through.'

Bashir, Headley told the FBI, was a contact provided to him by Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and for his involvement in a plot to attack a Danish newspaper.

Bashir was Rana's contact in India, helped Headley with paperwork and escorted him around.

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Image: Smoke emerges from the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, in this photograph shot in the early hours of November 27, 2008.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Vicky Nanjappa/Rediff.com

'I carried $3,000, $4,000 during my first trip and two credit cards,' Headley told FBI agents and later India's National Investigation Agency agents. 'During that trip, I carried my mother-in-law's camera with which I took videos and photographs. I cannot recollect the model of the camera. I spoke to Rana before my visit who told me that Bashir would receive me at Mumbai airport.'

'This was my first visit to India. I had never visited the country in any other name before this,' Headley said.

According to sources, neither the Mumbai police nor the NIA discovered who Bashir was.

Headley told his interrogators that Bashir had received him at Mumbai airport in September 2006. The airport is under CCTV surveillance, but it appears investigators have not tried to put a face to Bashir.

Tracking down Bashir, NIA agents say, is difficult since he may now be living in Canada.

"Bashir is a very important link to the Headley case," an intelligence expert told this correspondent, speaking on condition that he would not be identified by name in this report. "India has not attempted to seek information from Canada about Bashir."


Image: People duck for cover as gunshots are fired from inside the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai in this photograph taken in the early hours of November 27, 2008.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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