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Evidently on the strength of continuing information provided by Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative and Pakistani American David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani, who was an integral protagonist in the conspiracy that led to the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, four new Lashkar handlers of Headley have been chargesheeted in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
This chargesheet supersedes the earlier indictment of nearly two years ago where Headley's handler in the US, Tahawwar Hussain Rana and Lashkar supremo Ilyas Kahsmiri were indicted in Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavits unsealed in the Chicago District Court.
The new defendants are: Sajid Mir (also known as Wasi, Ibrahim, and Sajid Majeed); Abu Qahafa; Mazhar Iqbal (also known as Abu Al Qama); and a fourth defendant known only by the alias 'Major Iqbal.' None of them are in US custody.
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They were each charged with six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India, and three of them -- Mir, Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal -- were each charged with conspiracy to bomb public places in India.
Chief prosecution spokesman Assistant US Attorney Randall Samborn told rediff.com that charges carry a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment or death. All four were also charged with one count of conspiracy to murder and maim in India, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, he added.
Mir, Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal were also charged together with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India; Mir was charged with conspiracy to murder and maim in Denmark as well as conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark; and the four new defendants were charged with providing material support to Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
Sources told rediff.com that "additional information" provided by Headley, which the US law enforcement believed to be "high credible," had "proven invaluable" in the prosecution bring this indictment against the four additional defendants.
The chargesheet submitted on Monday said Mir, a resident of Pakistan associated with the Lashkar, supervised others associated with the outfit and served as a 'handler' for Headley and others who were directed to carry out actions relating to planning, preparing for, and carrying out terrorist attacks.
Qahafa, the indictment said, also a resident of Pakistan associated with Lashkar, trained others in combat techniques for use in terrorist attacks, while Mazhar Iqbal, a resident of Pakistan, was one on Lashkar's commanders.
The individual known only as 'Major Iqbal', again a resident of Pakistan, participated in planning and funding attacks carried out by Lashkar.
Headley's move nearly two years ago to plead guilty to a dozen terrorism charges in return for taking the death penalty and extradition to India or Pakistan off the table was a 'good deal' because he had agreed to fully cooperate with the prosecution, and spill the beans on his sponsor Rana, Kashmiri and his handler retired major in the Pakistan military Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed.
He provided the FBI and US intelligence with invaluable information on the terrorist network that plotted the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and conspired to attack a Danish newspaper.
A source told rediff.com that the superseding indictment against the four additional defendants proved that Headley's "plea bargain continues to bring in dividends," vis- -vis information on the network of Lashkar operatives.
The chargesheet said, "beginning no later than in or about late 2005, and continuing through on or about October 3, 2009, Mir, Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal conspired with each other. David Coleman Headley and others known and unknown to the grand jury, helped deliver, place, discharge and detonate explosives and other lethal devices, into and against places of public use, state and government facilities, public transportation systems, and infrastructure facilities in India, with the intent to cause death and serious bodily injury, and with the intent to cause extensive destruction of such places and facilities and where such destruction would likely result in major economic loss."
Rana, 49, like Headley was a resident of Chicago, owned and operated a successful Immigration Services company, which provided Headley with a perfect cover to travel to India, after obtaining a visa at the Indian consulate ostensibly to offer immigration services to Indians.
As part of the conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism, Rana, according to the FBI, allegedly helped arrange Headley's travels overseas and conceal their true nature and purpose to surveil potential terror targets overseas, and discussed potential targets for attack with Headley.