Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Sajid Mir's association with David Coleman Headley will be the primary focus of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Indian security agencies.
Mir, who is also known by the aliases of Zarar Shah and Abu-al-Qama, according to intelligence reports is turning out to be major player in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and investigations have revealed that he was the main person handling both Headley and the Mumbai attackers.
The association Mir had with Headley and Tawwahur Rana (who were arrested recently by the FBI in Chicago for alleged Lashkar links) proves that he always preferred association with foreign-based jihadis to carry out terror strikes. Intelligence Bureau officials told rediff.com that Mir's first tryst with a foreign national goes back to the year 2006.
Mir has since been associated with many foreign nationals and the most famous one prior to Headley was a terrorist by the name Willy Briggitte, a French national. Willy converted to Islam and got introduced to some radical elements. He was then spotted by Mir who thought that he could be a potential operative to carry out a terror strike. Mir then directed him to carry out a major terror strike in Australia, but Willy was nabbed and is currently facing trial.
IB officials say that Mir was formerly an army major in Pakistan and then was moved to the Inter Services Intelligence following which he was directed to take care of the Lashkar operations. Mir had extensive knowledge of foreign operatives due to his close association with the Al Qaeda. He was specifically assigned to improve the transnational linkages with foreign-based jihadis with a view of undertaking global jihad.
It was during this period that Mir also suggested roping in David Hicks, the Australian 'Taliban' who converted to Islam and used the name of Dawood Muhammad. This man was sent to Pakistan and trained under the Lashkar before being captured in Afghanistan by American forces.
Apart from this Mir has also managed to rope in two other nationals from the United Kingdom namely Richard Reid, the 'shoe bomber' convicted of trying to blow up an American Airlines flight, and Dhiren Barot, the London-based terrorist convicted for planning attacks in the US.
If one looks at the investigation reports of all the above mentioned foreign nationals, there is a clear linkage to the Lashkar and Sajid Mir.
Mir and Headley: The Mumbai attack was the biggest terror plot planned by the Lashkar. The investigating agencies of both the US and India have stated that Headley and Rana reported directly to Mir. While the Mumbai attacks were being planned, Mir was the commander of the Lashkar and like before he decided to rope in foreign nationals to conduct a reccee of Mumbai and zero down the places to be attacked.
Investigations have reveal that he sought to use foreign nationals such as Headley in the initial stages since it was a crucial period and they did not want their plans to become public. During their interactions, Mir specifically asked Headley to concentrate on the Jewish centre in Mumbai -- Nariman (Chabad) House. He was told by Mir to watch and learn exactly how the Jews prayed so that he would be treated as one among them.
Mir kept in touch with Headley by phone and e-mails. The e-mail used by Mir was firstname.lastname@example.org. Interestingly this was the same mail id that was used to send out a message immediately after the Mumbai attacks in the name of Deccan Mujahideen, claiming responsibility. Apart from this he also used two satellite phone numbers 8821651135541 and 8821621330743 to stay in touch.
Crucial operative: The IB maintains that Mir has been surrounded by mystery ever since his name started to crop up. There have been various attempts to show that this man has been either dead or arrested by Pakistan. After the Mumbai attacks, there was a news report stating that a person by the name Abu-al-Qama had been killed in Kashmir. Interestingly the man who was killed had the same numbers that were being used by Mir. The IB says that this was a ploy by Pakistan to avoid pressure to extradite him. However when this plan fell flat and when Indian security agencies confirmed that the man killed was not the same Qama, then they stage-managed an arrest. Since Indian agencies knew Mir by the name of Zarar Shah, Pakistan claimed that Shah had been arrested. Today Pakistan even refuses to share a photograph of the man. Intelligence intercepts suggest that the man arrested is not Mir alias Shah alias Qama by a small-time operative called Wajid.
Giving out the real identity of Mir would be extremely problematic to Pakistan since this man is an example to show how former army personnel and ISI sleuths are active members of the Lashkar and how they carry out terror operations across countries.