It was for the sake of getting leads regarding the local help that terrorists received to carry out the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, and information on ISI handlers in Pakistan, that David Coleman Headley was allowed to become an approver in the case.
Highly placed officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs, who are overseeing the case, said that there is very little information regarding the role of Indian nationals who helped the Lashkar terrorists carry out the attack in which 164 people were killed and more than 300 injured.
Sources said that Headley, a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorist of Pakistani-American origin, will depose before the court in February 2016. He is expected to share inputs regarding the local help that he received. According to them, Headley is a trove of information that is crucial for the case.
“One must remember that it was he who confirmed a closely guarded secret that Ishrat Jahan was a part of the terror module. Similarly, it is only he who can tell us who helped him to carry out the reconnaissance of Mumbai in 2007 and 2008, which provided him detailed inputs like GPS coordinates, maps and video footages to the Lashkar operatives. We have conclusively proved at the international forum that the operation was planned from Pakistani soil, but we do not have much information about the people who helped Headley while he was in India,” a senior IB official said.
Security agency officials said the Mumbai police did not care to investigate the local contacts who had helped Headley, despite specific information that he was supported by three Indian nationals. “The Mumbai police was very careless in their probe and they never investigated the local links, something that should have been the priority,” the official said. Officials said that the extensive reconnaissance exercise carried out by Headley was very neat and detailed, helping the terrorists to finally carry out their mission easily. “They (the 10 terrorists) were served everything on a platter and they only had to pull the trigger. The maps, the floor plans, the exit and entry routes of the targets were all known to the terrorists. To collect this kind of detailed information is not possible for a single man and he needs to have support from the inside,” an MHA official said.
Headley is currently in a US prison under a deal that saves him from the death sentence or extradition to India. However, officials said that with the level of cooperation between US and India witnessing a monumental change, the government will push for his extradition, if Headley refuses to cooperate. “The NIA had gone to the US and interrogated Headley in 2010. But the details of the interrogation were suppressed and not put to use by the previous political dispensation for reasons unknown. However, this time, we are taking a totally different approach. We will make sure that the same is not repeated,” the IB official said. The Sunday Guardian was the first to report in June 2013 that Headley, during his interrogation, had told the NIA officials that Ishrat Jahan was a part of the LeT module, something that was kept hidden by the MHA till the time The Sunday Guardian broke the story. The UPA government under whose tenure the attack took place, had replaced the then Home Minister Shivraj Patil with P. Chidambaram, who supervised the subsequent investigation into the case. However, the investigation ignored the issue of who were the Indian nationals who helped Headley and Lashkar.