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David Headley’s Confessions

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David Headley

David Headley

David Headley, who surveyed targets for the 26/11 attacks, gave Indian interrogators a step-by-step account of his training with Laskhar-e-Taiba. The details are in a new book, Headley and I, written by S. Hussain Zaidi with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son Rahul Bhatt, whom Headley befriended on his visits to India. The following are excerpts from the book.

After a couple of days of interrogating David Headley, Behera thought he had more or less figured him out. He knew that Headley would tell him much of what he knew and had done, primarily because he had a boastful streak in him. All Behera had to do was egg him on. So far, the strategy was working beautifully.

‘Tell me about your training, Mr Headley,’ Behera said. ‘You clearly had a lot of training with Lashkar-e-Taiba, and they must have trusted you a lot.’

Headley beamed. ‘Yeah, they trusted me.’

‘So what kind of training did you get exactly?’

After the first two preliminary stages — the Daura-e-Amma and Daura-e-Sufa — I progressed to the next. The training became much more practical, and I learned to translate my acceptance and belief in Salafi Islam and radical ideology into action.

In April 2003, I volunteered for the Daura-e-Khaassa in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There were thirty or forty of us in the group that underwent the Daura-e-Khaassa training, which lasted for a full three months. During that time, we were taught the importance of being soldiers of Islam…

But the one thing that some individuals in the group had trouble dealing with was the bloodshed. They kept asking themselves, and each other, and our masters and trainers and teachers, if it was acceptable to kill human beings, and if so, why.

MOVIES ON ATROCITIES

This was what Daura-e-Khaassa was all about. The earlier Dauras were orientation programmes, this was the real induction into jehad. We were told that it was not just okay to kill others, it was actually an act of worship—it needed to be done to avenge the wrongdoings against Muslims. The LeT established this primarily by showing us very gory and violent movies about atrocities against Muslims.

One of those movies that I still remember vividly was the one on Babu Bajrangi and atrocities in Gujarat. He was involved in killing innocent Muslims in Gujarat; he had been caught on a hidden camera saying that he didn’t mind if he was hanged, but before he was, he wanted to be given a couple of days so he could go and kill as many Muslims as he could. Despite overwhelming evidence, the Gujarat state and the Indian government did not act against him.

My hatred for and rage at India increased manifold during those three months.

We were also shown some of the innumerable inflammatory speeches made by the Maharashtrian goondas of the Shiv Sena and their supremo Bal Thackeray. Hafiz Saeed was the one who showed us the damage that Bal Thackeray had done to the Muslim ummah.

I know now that they were shown to us primarily to motivate us. And after everything that we saw on those videos, all our reservations were washed away, and we were fuelled by an unnatural, powerful rage. As it is, I had nursed a hatred against India ever since I was a child and my school had been bombed, but now, my loathing and animosity towards it were reinforced and with good reason.

Finally, after graduating from the Daura-e-Khaassa, we were taken to a mountain in Muzaffarabad. At first, I thought the next part of our training would be in a cave, as it looked like that was where we were headed. We soon found out that it was much more. It was a self-sustained branch of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The sheer grandeur of the place took my breath away — it appeared to be more like a palatial fortress than anything else.

It was a safe house, and it was called Bait-ul Mujahideen, meaning the ‘house of the crusaders’. Whenever mujahideens would cross over from India’s Jammu and Kashmir or from Pakistan, they would be stationed here and taken care of. Here, they lived a life of luxury until they were ready to leave, or were given details of their next mission. They would then cross the border to India.

I also met a frogman while I was in Muzaffarabad; he was introduced to me as Abdur Rehman. He seemed to be from the Pakistan Navy. In that Lashkar camp, Bait-ul Mujahideen, we received intensive all-round training. The emphasis was primarily on urban warfare, and we were trained in two-man, body-attack operations. We learned to cover our partners and work with them seamlessly. We were taught all kinds of urban warfare skills — two-man entry, two-man firing from cover, and covering jams and reloads. We also had situational training — stair work, hall work, combat, first aid, and even unarmed hand-to-hand combat.

We were taught to shoot with all kinds of weapons — pistols, rifles, shotguns, everything. I handled the M-16, Heckler and Koch, FNAR rifles, Steyr AUG, submachine guns and even a Dragunov sniper rifle. I was also taught how to use hand grenades and antipersonnel fragmentation grenades. But the one weapon that all of us had to master was the AK-47 and its derivatives.

By 2005, I had finished my training and had become a full-fledged member of the LeT, a jehadi dedicated to the cause of true Islam. I was itching to start work, and was looking forward to the mission in India that I had been told might be given to me. Within a few days, I was introduced to a retired brigadier of the ISI. They never revealed his full name to me, I only knew him as Retired Brigadier Riyaz.

Riyaz lived in a palatial house in Muzaffarabad, reminiscent of all those palaces that people see in movies and photographs. There were times when I was summoned to the house along with Zaki, one of my LeT masters. It was then that I realized the equation between Pakistan’s ISI and the Lashkar—they were like master and subordinate. Zaki, who was a top figure in the LeT, the man in charge of all operations, was just a subservient servant in front of Brigadier Riyaz.

I figured out that Riyaz was not the only man in the ISI who was dealing with our LeT handlers. Like him, Major Iqbal too was a very powerful and influential figure. His man in the LeT was Hafiz Saeed. Similarly, Major Samir handled biggies like Abu Kahafa, Sajid Mir and others. It was a strange marriage, and I knew that the LeT despised it. To them, jehad was most important. But the ISI were really not interested in jehad. They were only interested in developing and executing strategies to destabilize India.

Finally, the ISI masters decided that I was ready for jehad, and my first mission. But they told me that there was one crucial thing I had to do first. I had to go back to the US and change my name. I was still Daood Gilani, and a Daood Gilani flying to and fro between Pakistan and other countries would get noticed, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. I was instructed to choose a name that would not raise any suspicion.

Sometime in September 2005, I called my attorney, Donald Drumpf, and told him that I wanted to change my name. He was surprised, but I told him that I had grown tired of Daood Gilani and the consequent persecution, and wanted to change my name to one that would sound as if it belonged to a white American. He believed what I said. Finally, though my social security number remained the same, I changed my name to David Coleman Headley, using my mother’s middle and last names.

At last, I was ready. This was the first time I was leaving the country on a mission, and I was leaving it a new man, as David Coleman Headley. After all those years of nursing my hatred, it was only fitting that my first mission was going to be in and against India.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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Temple

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