Washington: Ahead of the Chicago trial of Mumbai attack accused, US said it was committed to bring the perpetrators of the 2008 terror strikes to justice and asked other countries to do the same–an apparent reference to Pakistan.
The US assertion that India was also a “victim” of terrorism came even as influential daily ‘The Washington Post’ said the discovery that Osama bin Laden spent years in a compound surrounded by military facilities in Abbottabad reinforced the accusations that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ISI was involved in the 26/11 attack which killed 166 people.
A key US lawmaker Mike Rogers meanwhile said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network may have had some “logistical role” behind bombing incidents in India. Rogers is the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “We are committed to bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice. We call on other countries to do the same.”
“Our message is that we sympathise with India, which has also been the victims of terrorism,” Toner said at his daily news conference.
The Post while taking note of the start of one of the most significant terrorism trials in US on May 16 involving Pakistan-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, observed that day will mark “the first public airing of the ISI’s alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.”
Rana, a co-accused along with Pakistani-American David Headley in Mumbai attack, is the owner of a Chicago immigration consulting firm. Rana was arrested in 2009 and charged with providing material support in the attacks in which four suspects were indicted last week.
While the Obama Administration has publicly refrained from making any comments on the alleged role of Pakistan’s ISI in the Mumbai attack, its latest indictment filed in the Chicago court names a suspect “Major Iqbal”, whose affiliation to the spy agency has been detailed in US and Indian case files.
“The on-going Chicago trial on 26/11 will throw fresh light on the ISI’s role in the Mumbai terrorist attack,” investigative journalist Sebastian Rotella said in his latest article in The Washington Post and ProPublica.Com.
Observing that ISI has long been suspected of secretly aiding terrorist groups while serving as a US ally in the fight against terror, The Post said the discovery that bin Laden spent years in a fortress-like compound surrounded by military facilities in Abbottabad has heightened those suspicions and reinforced the accusations that ISI was involved in the 26/11 attack.
“The star witness will be David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman-turned-militant who has pleaded guilty to scouting targets in India and Denmark. Rana allegedly helped Headley use his firm as a cover for reconnaissance,” it added. Headley trained in LeT camps before being recruited in 2006 by an ISI officer, Major Samir Ali, who referred him to Iqbal in Lahore, according to the report.
Federal prosecutors have said Headley, a Pakistani-American, was associated with LeT and attended its training camps in Pakistan which began in or around February 2002, August 2002, April 2003, August 2003 and December 2003. Headley assisted senior LeT personnel in planning and preparing for terrorist attacks.
Currently languishing in a Chicago jail, Headley has bargained with the US authorities that in exchange for his guilty plea he would not be extradited to India or face death penalty.
The status hearing of Rana took place in Chicago yesterday even as his lawyer claimed that Indian government officials hadn’t approached him yet for access.
The status hearing took place with the discussions about the commencement of trial on May 16. Headley is likely to testify at the trial. Headley has plead guilty while Rana has not plead guilty.
Commenting on recent reports that India may gain access to him like they did to Headley last year, Rana’s attorney Patrick Blegen claimed that the Indian government officials hadn’t approached him yet.
Part of the hearing today was closed. On April 25, in a second superseding indictment, US prosecutors charged four additional men, all Pakistani residents, in the 26/11 terror attacks that left 166 dead including six Americans.
Congressman Mike Rogers said, “We believe that they may have some logistical role in helping in the bombings in India”. His remark came in response to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a Washington-based eminent think tank.
Rogers, who is being briefed regularly by the American intelligence agencies including the CIA, however did not specify any particular terrorist attacks inside India, but apparently was referring to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
This is possibly for the first time that the name of the Haqqani network, a terrorist network based in Pakistan, has figured in any terror related activity in India.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had yesterday slapped sanctions against Badruddin Haqqani, one of the outfits top commanders.
Badruddin is the son of HQN founder Jalaluddin Haqqani and his brothers Nasiruddin Haqqani and Sirajuddin Haqqani, are all Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Interestingly, the Haqqani network hasn’t yet been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US. Last month, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said that elements in ISI support the network.