Mumbai: Pakistani-American terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Friday said the global terror network Al Qaeda wanted to attack India’s National Defence College in New Delhi as he also revealed a medley of Lashkar-e-Taiba plans to strike terror in the country.
Headley, who has been testifying through video-conferencing since Monday before a special court in Mumbai for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, claimed that Al Qaeda considered the defence college as “a good, high-value target with many senior military officers”.
He said he visited the college campus casually for a survey in 2007 at the instance of Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri.
In his ongoing deposition before Special TADA Judge G.A. Sanap, Headley revealed how the Lashkar nefariously planned to eliminate Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray.
Headley, 56, spoke of developing close links with Rajaram Rege, the former PRO of present Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, by luring him with a business offer to access Shiv Sena Bhavan which was also on the target list of LeT.
“I took videos of the Shiv Sena Bhavan from outside and inside… I thought LeT would be interested in attacking it or even carry assassination of its (then) head (Bal Thackeray),” Headley said.
He said he provided two-three videos to his Pakistani handlers Sajid Mir and Major Iqbal.
Rege admitted that he knew Headley but said he never took him to the Shiv Sena Bhavan.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the Thackerays and the party have always been targeted by international terror groups “since we are the only ones who speak out against Pakistan”.
The terrorist-turned-approver also talked about the Lashkar plans to hit Mumbai’s famed Siddhi Vinayak Temple and attempts to recruit staffers from the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to tap them for “classified information”.
“The ISI wanted to recruit BARC staffers for future… to get classified information from them,” Headley said.
The Lashkar operative, jailed in the US for his terror activities, said that he came in touch with actor Rahul Bhatt, son of veteran film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, through the in-charge of the upmarket Moksha Gym. Headley was a member of the gym from October 2006.
He said he again surveyed the NDC, Chabad Houses in international tourist destinations like Goa, Pune and Pushkar after the Mumbai attack on the instructions of Kashmiri.
He said he handed over videos of the famed Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Dadar and the Naval Air Station to his main contacts Mir and Iqbal.
Outside the temple, he said, he bought a bunch of around 15 red and yellow coloured sacred threads and sent them to Mir so the terrorists could tie them around their wrists and pass off as Hindus and avoid detection.
Headley claimed to have discussed the temple and other terror plans with his LeT handlers and the ISI discouraged them from targeting the temple, Indian Navy’s air force station, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Gateway of India in Mumbai as they were very heavily guarded sites when he surveyed them.
On his spying activities, Headley said he followed the progress of Indian Army and on one trip to Mumbai, he bought a book “Indian Army-Vision 2020” from Nalanda Books & Record Shop in Hotel Taj Mahal Palace.
He had purchased four other books – “Royal Rajasthan”, “India’s Jewish Heritage”, “The Grand Trunk Road” and “Polo In India” – but the army book was of great interest to him, he said.
“The other four books were mostly pictorial and there was nothing
sinister about them.”
At this, Judge Sanap enquired whether there was anything “sinister” (motives) about the book on Indian Army, Headley replied: “Yes… My Lord!”
At one point in the deposition, Nikam suddenly shot a question about a woman named Kainaz.
“She was a friend from Mumbai,” Headley replied.
“Friend or girlfriend,” Nikam countered.
“Not a girlfriend, just a friend,” a visibly irritated Headley replied.
Later, identifying a picture of the captured and hanged terrorist Ajmal Kasab, Headley said the LeT was “saddened” by his arrest during the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attack.