India says 2 charged in Chicago may be tied to Mumbai siege
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
NEW DELHI -- Indian authorities are investigating whether two men recently arrested in Chicago on terrorism charges had a role in last November's attacks in Mumbai that killed 165 people, government officials here said.
David Coleman Headley, 49, who was born in the United States but had lived in Pakistan and changed his name from Daood Gilani three years ago, was arrested last month along with Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, a Pakistani-born businessman and Canadian citizen. They were charged with plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that had printed cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, according to criminal complaints unsealed recently in a federal court in Chicago.
Indian police suspect that Headley conducted scouting missions of the Mumbai targets, including the city's main train station, the popular Leopold Cafe, and the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and the Oberoi Trident hotels. Hotel records show he stayed in both hotels in 2007, authorities said.
Headley also allegedly posed as a Jew to visit one of the other eventual targets, Chabad House, home to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish center, said a high-ranking official involved in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
Detectives from India's National Investigation Agency fanned out across the crowded seaside city this week to retrace Headley's and Rana's paths. They have interviewed members of a fitness center frequented by Headley and are talking to his neighbors and friends.
"We are looking into what they did when they visited India. Obviously, we have to look into whether they have a link with 26/11," Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in an interview, referring to the date of the attacks.
Indian investigators are expected to interrogate the lone surviving gunman, Ajmal Amir Kasab, about Headley's possible role. Kasab is on trial in Mumbai and could be given the death sentence.
Headley's and Rana's attorneys in Chicago declined to comment.
The news comes as the FBI and CIA plan high-level visits to India before the end of the week, according to the Indian media.
There has been growing cooperation between Indian and U.S. intelligence agencies, especially in sharing phone records used by the alleged attackers. India and the United States blame the attacks on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group. One of the criminal complaints filed in Chicago says that Headley was "conspiring with members" of Lashkar-i-Taiba to commit attacks outside the United States.
Investigators here have long said that one of the biggest mysteries of the Mumbai attacks is how the 10 gunmen, who came ashore on a rubber boat from Karachi, Pakistan, knew the exact location of the low-profile Jewish center in an obscure building along a crowded alleyway. The gunmen also seemed to have extensive knowledge of the mazelike layouts of the hotels they attacked, investigators have said.
Staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.