Chicago, May 24 (IANS) A key plotter of the Mumbai terror attack, Pakistani American David Coleman Headley, has told a court that he joined Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group as he hated India for "dismembering" Pakistan in 1971.
Implicating Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for providing support to LeT in carrying out the 2008 terror attack, Headley told a Chicago Federal court Monday: "They coordinated with each other."
"ISI provided assistance to Lashkar through military and financial assistance and moral support," said Headley, who has pleaded guilty to taking part in planning the rampage to escape the death penalty, at the trial of his one time friend, Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana.
Prosecution's star witness Headley testified that in 2004, after meeting with top LeT leaders, he proposed that it sue the US government to challenge its designation as a terrorist organisation.
But top leaders in the group told Headley, son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, who changed his given name of Daood Gilani in 2006 to scout targets for the attack without arousing suspicion, that they would need to consult with the ISI if they were to try to sue the US.
Headley discussed how he attended several training camps with the group and how he was trained with weapons and in Koranic studies when he returned to Pakistan from the US after the Sep 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Eventually in 2004, Headley attended a leadership course with about 200 LeT terrorists, he said, adding that he had wanted to fight against Indian troops in Kashmir.
But LeT leaders told him they wanted to use him in other operations because he had been born in the US and may not raise suspicion.
In December 2005, he discussed with his Lashkar handler, Sajid Mir, plans to go into India. Headley was introduced to a retired Pakistani military officer named Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed a.k.a. "Pasha".
The following year, Pasha and Headley tried to meet with a drug smuggler Headley knew to possibly smuggle weapons into India for an attack, he told the jury.
But they were arrested in northern Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. Headley admitted he had been training with LeT and was introduced to an ISI official named Major Ali.
Headley testified that he told Major Ali about his plans to go to India and plans to change his name and get a US passport.
Major Ali was "very pleased" and then wanted to introduce him to another ISI officer known as Major Iqbal, Headley said.
Acknowledging his work for the ISI, Headley told the coort: "During my trip to Chicago, I told [Rana] about my meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar.
"I also told him about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI. I even told him some of the espionage stories that Major Iqbal had told me."
Headley's testimony may take several days, with the trial itself expected to last four to five weeks.
Federal prosecutors Monday argued that Rana supported and even laughed about plotting terror with his co-conspirator.
"You will hear the defendant in his own voice laughing as they discussed targets of attack," Assistant US Attorney Sarah Streicker said. "The plots we are going to describe are atrocious, the attacks terrible."
Rana's attorneys argued that Headley was not a credible witness. "David Headley is a master manipulator," said Defense attorney Charles Swift. "He made a fool out of Mr. Rana."