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NIA's unanswered questions on David Headley

November 26, 2010 12:13 IST
Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa reveals why the National Investigating Agency's probe into David Headley and the 26/11 attacks is far from complete.

The National Investigating Agency believes it has enough information to build a strong case against Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Coleman Headley and his minders in Pakistan.

The NIA is India's premier agency investigating terror-related cases. An NIA team interrogated Headley in an undisclosed destination, presumably in Chicago where the Pakistani-American terrorist is jailed, a few weeks ago.

The NIA team returned with information, which was said to be almost similar to what Headley had told America's Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who interrogated him after his arrest at Chicago airport in October 2009.

The Headley investigation is far from over and a lot more needs to be done before finality can be attained in this case, a member of the NIA told Rediff.com

"Information about (Lashkar founder and the alleged 26/11 mastermind Mohammad Saeed and his accomplices were more of a confirmation for us," the NIA agent said, speaking about what Headley told the NIA team.

"The two major aspects that still need to be probed are the ones pertaining to Headley's possible handler in Pakistan, Sajid Mir, and also if Headley had any connection with locals in India," he added.

"While going through the investigation conducted at the early stage after the attacks, the names of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed cropped up. They were considered to be the only Indians who undertook a survey of the targets until the FBI came out with the Headley angle," the NIA agent said.

"We will continue to probe the Fahim Ansari angle since there is one stark similarity between him and Headley. Both men were in touch with the man called Sajid Mir," he added.

"There has been confusion regarding this man (Mir). Initially, it was said that he was a retired major from the Pakistan army and had been with the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) as well," he noted.

Sebastian Rotella's report on the ProPublica Web site last fortnight revealed that Mir's name has surfaced in investigations on four continents. A French court convicted him in absentia in 2007.

When his name emerged in connection with the Headley case, Pakistan government agencies claimed they had questioned a man named Sajid Mir, a retired army major. However, he was let off since the Pakistani agencies claimed they did not find anything incriminating about him.

The NIA believes Mir also goes by the alias Wasi and was born on January 1, 1978. Based out of Islamabad, he identified the targets in India for Headley to survey.

The NIA discovered that Mir traveled to India in 2005, traveling under the name Arshad Khan. It was during this visit that he identified targets and later directed Headley to survey them.

The NIA feels ultimate confirmation about Mir's identity and his role could only come from Pakistan since its agencies will need to verify the telephonic conversations the terrorists had with their handlers in Pakistan during the 26/11 attacks and whether one of the men directing the operation is Sajid Mir.

The NIA is aware that what Headley revealed to the NIA team cannot be taken at face value. Headley told the NIA team that he had been in constant touch with Mir who guided him through his operations in India.

The NIA is also unclear if Headley had local support in India.

His visits to India looked legitimate and hence it was difficult to track his movements. Although the investigation about likely local links is not complete, there is nothing as of now to show that the Lashkar operative was in touch with Fahim Ansari, Sahabuddin Ahmed or any other Indian.

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Vicky Nanjappa