Mumbai attacks co-accused David Headley testified in a US court on Wednesday that there was a plot involving his handlers in Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba to assassinate Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Headley had scouted the Shiv Sena Bhavan, the Sena’s headquarters in Dadar, Mumbai before the 26/11 attacks. Giving his testimony on the second day of the trial of 26/11 co-accused Tahawwur Rana, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, Headley talked about the hatred against the Sena among his Pakistani handlers. He also told the jury how he gave details about the potential landing sites in Mumbai to his Pakistani handlers.
According to Headley, he and his Pakistani handlers – Major Iqbal of ISI, Sajid Mir of LeT and Pasha – and Rana shared their hatred of the Sena and considered the saffron party “a terrorist outfit.” US prosecutors are trying to prove Headley had direct communication with Rana and his Pakistani handlers.
Questioning his links with the Sena, the prosecutors, during the first hour of testimony on the second day, brought in the communication he had with “Reggie” or Rajaram Rege, the Shiv Sena’s public relations officer. Headley testified he shared his communication with “Reggie” with Rana, Major Iqbal, Sajid and Pasha. He was asked about several emails he sent to Rana, Major Iqbal and Sajid – all to confirm that Rana and he were in direct communication with all of them. The email sent to Sajid indicated that Bala (Bal Thackeray) would be travelling with “Reggie’s boss” (Uddhav) to the US and that he could be assassinated “over here” (in the US). Headley said he and Sajid discussed they wanted to kill Shiv Sena people. “We have discussed. This man (Rege) was very important and would have given us access to this organisation (Sena),” he said. Headley also talked about killing Shiv Sena leaders.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut in Mumbai, however, denied that the Sena had any officer by the name of Rege. “This [Headley’s statement] is completely false and baseless,” Raut said. Sena spokespersons refused to comment on Headley’s statement that the Sena was a terrorist outfit. They said any statement on the matter would be made by Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.
CM Prithviraj Chavan said the state would wait for the Centre’s directive to probe if Headley had met Sena leaders during his stay in Mumbai. Chavan said trial was being held in another country, and he did not know much about it. “Let the matter come to the Union government. We will probe if the Centre (government) asks us to do so,” he said. Headley said he forwarded the emails with “Reggie” to Rana and that in June 2008, returned to Pakistan and met Major Iqbal and Sajid (more than once).