The leadership of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was not involved in planning the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, self-confessed plotter David Coleman Headley testified on Tuesday.
Headley, who pleaded guilty to 12 terror charges arising out of the attacks on India’s financial capital and other unrealised plots, testified that no more than a handful of ISI agents were involved in the Mumbai plot.
“The colonel might have known and someone in the group might have known,” Headley told a Chicago court, referring to one of his alleged ISI handlers.
But when asked if he meant that neither the head of the ISI nor its senior leadership was involved, Headley testified “Yes.”
Headley had previously testified that he believed the ISI worked closely with the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and detailed his relationship with an ISI handler identified as “Major Iqbal.”
However, Headley’s testimony on Tuesday supports Pakistan’s assertion that the ISI’s involvement was limited to a handful of rogue agents.
Headley is testifying against his childhood friend and alleged co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark.
The Washington-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and an American woman, Headley spent two years scouting Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city’s harbour to identify landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover.
In a plot that reads like a movie thriller, Headley said he was given a GPS device to locate possible targets, including Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel, the eventual site of the attacks in addition to the headquarters of the right-wing political party Shiv Sena.
Rana is accused of providing Headley with a cover and acting as a messenger, with prosecutors alleging he played a behind-the-scenes logistical role in both the Mumbai attacks and another abortive plan to strike Copenhagen.
Rana, a Canadian-Pakistani and Chicago businessman, has denied all charges, and his defense attorneys argue that he was duped by his friend, whom he had met in military school in Pakistan.