ISI hired Headley to spy on India, Mumbai attacks: report

Saturday, January 1, 2011

WASHINGTON - Pakistani-American terror convict David Coleman Headley was recruited by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to spy on India and to plan the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 dead, including US and Israeli citizens, a media report said Saturday.

Now, for the first time, there is a detailed inside account of how the ISI has been playing a “double game” — acting as a front-line US ally in the fight against terror while supporting selected terror groups to serve Pakistani interests, the reported.

The US probe of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks has built a strong case that ISI officers collaborated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group in the terror plot. Six Americans were killed in the attack.

US and Indian investigators say their understanding of the ISI-Lashkar alliance is drawn from the confessions of Headley, as well as documents, phone records and electronic eavesdropping.

Officials from both countries also say they are persuaded that ISI officers recruited and trained Headley in spying techniques and gave him money and instructions to scout targets in Mumbai and elsewhere, according to the website.

Headley has told investigators that a Pakistani Navy frogman helped plan the maritime attack on Mumbai, according to a 119-page report recounting his interrogation by Indian authorities in the US custody in 2010.

The report, which was obtained by ProPublica, quotes Headley as saying that his Pakistani intelligence handler took part in a discussion about a subsequent Lashkar plot to attack a Danish newspaper — information that Pakistan did not share with Danish authorities.

In essence, US and Indian officials say, Headley was more than a terrorist: He served as a Pakistani spy.

During the period that ISI officers allegedly helped Lashkar plan to kill Americans and Jews in Mumbai, the intelligence service was working closely with the CIA and US military in counter-terrorism efforts and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was pledging his support for the US campaign against militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials deny any link to Lashkar and point out that hundreds of ISI officers have died in clashes with militants. They accuse India of politically motivated distortion in the report on Headley’s interrogation.

“It is a stereotype, a Pakistan-specific version of an Indian interrogation,” said a Pakistani official who requested anonymity because of the sensitive topic.

“The Indian version is totally distorted and fabricated as there was no involvement of the ISI whatsoever. Nor did any serving official interact with Headley or any of the perpetrators.”

But US investigators see much of Headley’s account as credible. They believe his main handler, a man identified only as Major Iqbal, was a serving member of the ISI and one of several Pakistani intelligence officers who had contacts with Headley.

The Obama administration has expressed frustration with Pakistan’s failure to bring to justice the suspected masterminds of Mumbai and to rein in Lashkar, the ISI’s longtime proxy army against India. Recent intelligence shows Lashkar remains intent on striking the West, according to a US official who requested anonymity.

Filed under: Terrorism

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