What secrets will 26/11 accused Rana's trial reveal?
The imminent trial of Pakistan-born Canadian citizen Tahawwur Rana, co-accused with David Headley in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, could reveal Inter Services Intelligence's links to terrorists, according to a news report.
Rana, 50, who was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on February 15 last year for planning the attacks, providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba to carry out the attacks and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai in the process, is set to go on trial in Chicago on Monday.
As the United States presses Pakistan for answers about whether the ISI played a role in harbouring Osama bin Laden, Headley, who himself is not on trial but will be the main witness against Rana, is set to recount his story of the Mumbai attack in a federal courthouse.
Image: David Headley
'Pakistani spies may be connected to terrorists'
"What he discloses could deepen suspicions that Pakistani spies are connected to terrorists and could potentially worsen relations between Washington and Islamabad," the New York Times reported.
Headley, 50, Rana's old friend from military school in Pakistan, claims that two years before terrorists struck the Indian port city of Mumbai, he began laying the groundwork for the attack. It was financed by $25,000 from an officer in Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, he said.
Pakistani-American Headley had told Indian investigators that the officer, known only as Major Iqbal, "listened to my entire plan to attack India."
Another officer with the intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, "assured me of the financial help," the Times said.
Image: The Taj Mahal hotel, one of the sites of the 26/11 attack
Pakistan has dismissed Headley's accusations
Pakistan has been dismissing Headley's accusations against the ISI as little more than a desperate performance by a man hoping to avoid the death penalty.
An American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Times that no agreement exists in Washington on whether the ISI guided Headley and the attacks on Mumbai. "It's not very clear," the official said.
But the very fact that the government is presenting Headley as a prosecution witness suggests that at least some in the government believe he is telling the truth.
The authorities said they expected the government to present e-mails and tapes of telephonic conversations to support his story, the report said.
Image: The Trident hotel, one of the sites of the 26/11 attack
'Next nail in the coffin of US-Pakistan relations'
"Any new evidence of ISI malfeasance that emerges from the trial will reverberate in Washington," the daily said.
On April 25, in a second superseding indictment, US prosecutors charged four additional men, all Pakistani residents, in the 26/11 terror attacks that left 166 dead including six Americans.
Bruce O Riedel, a terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution and former Central Intelligence Agency officer, predicted that the trial would be "the next nail in the coffin of US-Pakistan relations, as the ISI's role in the murder of six Americans is revealed in graphic detail."
Image: A video grab showing the attack on CST, Mumbai
Who is Major Iqbal?
American authorities have kept much of the evidence secret. Citing national security concerns, they have successfully moved to quash the defence lawyers' subpoenas for State Department cables and records held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that discuss Pakistan's links with militants.
And though the government has charged four other men, including the officer known as Major Iqbal, with aiding and abetting the murder of American citizens, the indictment refers to them either as commanders or associates of the militant group LeT, not as having links to the ISI.
A growing chorus on Capitol Hill argues that the discovery of bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad and the evidence in Headley's case leave no doubt that the ISI and its Pakistani military overseers have played a cynical double game with the United States, the Times said.
Image: The emblem of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence