Sunday, June 13

Pakistani-American Headley fingers ISI involvement in terror attacks on Mumbai. Why was this big news ignored by American mainstream media?

I note the Waldman paper (see earlier Pundita post), which is about the official involvement of Pakistan's ISI in terrorism in Afghanistan, was published three days after the news broke that David Coleman Headley had told Indian investigators the ISI was behind the 26/11/08 terror attacks in Mumbai, India.

Yet despite the importance of the news to Americans it doesn't seem it got much if any coverage in the American mainstream media. The report didn't even show up on the Google News front page; it appears only on Google News after entering keywords such as Pakistan, ISI or Headley. In short, Americans would have to know what to look for, to find it on Google News. Here's a report on Headley's remarks from The Times of India:
'ISI guided LeT at every step for 26/11'
by Diwakar & Vishwa Mohan, TNN, Jun 10, 2010, 02.40am IST

Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley has confirmed that Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] terrorists carried out the Mumbai attack under the "guidance" of Pakistan's ISI.

Headley, who is being interrogated in the US by a team of NIA officials, has said that the notorious ISI was engaged with the Lashkar commanders responsible for the 26/11 carnage at "each and every stage of the plot".

The account of the terrorist, who receed targets for Lashkar terrorists across the country, corroborates India's stand about the involvement of Pakistani state actors in terrorism, trains the spotlight on LeT-ISI tandem, and explains Pakistan's unwillingness to clamp down on the Lashkar leadership.

Headley has mentioned serving officers of Pakistan army — Major Sameer Ali, Major Iqbal and Major Haroon — as those who collaborated with the Lashkar terrorists. Major Sameer and Major Iqbal figured in the dossier India gave to Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir.

NIA's sessions with Headley tally with what he is learnt to have told the FBI, including the crucial bit about Hafiz Saeed being in the loop through the plot.

Whether the disclosures that undercut its denial will lead Pakistan to step up its cooperation with the 26/11 probe remains unclear.

Home minister P Chidambaram is to demand voice samples of seven Lashkar commanders including Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, Abu Al Qama and others when he meets his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik during his visit to Islamabad for the conference of home ministers from SAARC region. Pakistan has so far refused to give voice samples which could help investigators ascertain the identity of those who instructed the 26/11 attackers as they went about their deadly assignment.

Headley has also spoken of how post-26/11, ISI wanted Lashkar to disown the Mumbai attack to turn the global attention away from the terror outfit that Pakistan considers to be an important strategic asset to be used against India. With Ajmal Kasab snared, and investigations by India and FBI homing in its nexus with Lashkar, ISI planned to blame the carnage on al-Qaida. It even prepared a list of 4-5 al-Qaida figures who were to be projected as the conspirators.

Significantly, the ploy did not work because of resitance from Lashkar leaders, particularly Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, one of the 26/11 masterminds. Lashkar leaders who have proclaimed themselves to be innocent and have accused India of levelling baseless charges, felt that the increased notoriety after 26/11 had raised the terror profile of the group and was going to help them with recruitment and funds.

Headley also admitted that while he had started off as a Lashkar recruit, he started drifting towards Al Qaida under the influence of Major Abdul Rahman Saeed. Saeed, who served with 6 Baloch Regiment of Pakistan army, took voluntary retirement in 2002 to devote himself full time to Al Qaida's cause. Headley, who respected Saeed for his "sacrifice", went high in the retired major's esteem because of precise inputs he provided for the 26/11 attack.

Saeed, with the help of Ilyas Kashmiri, drafted him for the plan to attack Danish newspaper Jylland Posten which published controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. This, when Headley's original handler Sajid Mir wanted him to focus on Lashkar's anti-India mission.

During his Pakistan visit, Chidambaram will also ask Islamabad to locate and arrest 13 absconders found guilty by Indian courts.

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