Rana said Mumbai victims 'deserved it,' trial witness says
The U.S. Attorney's office released David Coleman Headley's U.S. passport photo among the evidence in the federal trial against Tahawwur Rana. Both men are accused of plotting a terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008. (U.S. Attorney's office / May 24, 2011)
“I was pleased,” he calmly told a federal jury Tuesday of the bloody images from the two-day attacks that led to the death of 164 people, including six U.S. citizens.
Headley, who has pleaded guilty to his role in two international terror plots, showed little to no emotion on his second day as a star witness in the federal trial of Tahawwar Rana, a Chicago businessman who is also charged with supporting the Mumbai attack and another plan to attack a Danish newspaper.
Leaning forward on the witness stand inside the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Headley, 50, continued to outline how he and members of the Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba planned the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, with assistance from Rana and even Pakistani intelligence officials.
Cool and matter-of-fact about even the grisliest details, he also told of a second plot to storm a Danish newspaper office and attack staff because of the paper’s publication of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. That never-accomplished effort, he testified Tuesday, would have included cutting off the heads of newspaper workers and throwing them out windows.
Headley testified that he told another alleged planner that only the cartoonist and one editor should be targeted.
But his cohort disagreed, and when U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins asked why, Headley replied: “He said all Danes are responsible for this.”
Peppered throughout the day were references to the alleged role in the Mumbai attack of Rana, a childhood friend of Headley’s who sat 30 feet away.
Rana, a former doctor for the Pakistani military, allegedly provided cover to Headley through his immigration business as Headley acted as a scout for Lashkar operatives in the Mumbai and Danish plots.
Headley testified that Rana helped him obtain a visa and allowed him to open a Mumbai-based office with his company’s name — First World Immigration Services Inc. — that allowed Headley to travel on scouting missions without raising suspicion.
Rana has denied all involvement in the plots, with his attorneys arguing that he was tricked by Headley.
Headley had already testified Monday that Rana knew what he was up to and why he needed the cover of his immigration business to get in and out of India.
On Tuesday, he told the jury that in May 2008 — six months before the attack in Mumbai — he told Rana exactly how the plans had developed.
“I told him of my meetings, that I had been asked to look for landing sites around Mumbai,” Headley said of the planned amphibious assault. Headley said he hold Rana “how I thought the plan would move ahead.”
Headley later testified that Rana shared his anti-Indian beliefs — seeming at times to go out of his way to make sure the jury heard that by amplifying answers to Collins’ questions.
Rana, 50, had very little reaction, even when Headley described the conversation the two old friends held in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
“Dr. Rana said they deserved it,” Headley said.
With that, Rana, sat up a little straighter and blinked.
The trial is expected to last another three weeks. Headley’s testimony has drawn scrutiny because of the links he is drawing between the Lashkar plotters and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as ISI.
That allegation has affected U.S.-Pakistani relations despite skepticism about the connection voiced by several U.S. security experts.
Headley has testified that he believed he was working for ISI, saying he learned of links between Lashkar and the intelligence agency during the training he did with Lashkar.
He has also linked some of his other alleged co-conspirators, who are not in custody, to either ISI or the Pakistani government.