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Pak Army majors and an Omani polished 26/11 blueprint

By Syed Nazakat in Delhi

This is clear: a matrix of terrorist cells in Pakistan, India and the Gulf, linked to the LeT and directly supervised by the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, planned and executed 26/11. It is also clear that from 2005 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation knew of David Headley’s (see story on page ) links with the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Headley’s links with the Pakistan army were confirmed when the Interpol issued red corner notices against five Pakistanis, including two serving army officers—Major Sameer Ali and Major Iqbal. The Interpol issued the notice after the National Investigating Agency (NIA) officials, who interrogated Headley, obtained non-bailable warrants against the five.

Both the serving majors are allegedly with the ISI and are based in Lahore. They are fluent in English, Hindi and Urdu, says the 109-page interrogation report of Headley. During the interrogation, Headley said Sameer Ali and Iqbal were his handlers and that his trips to India was funded by Iqbal. He said Colonel Shah and Lt. Col Hamza of the ISI were involved in the planning of the 26/11 attack.

In the dossier given to Pakistan, India has also named Col Sadatullah, who is with the special communications organisation, an official telecommunications agency run by officers from the army’s signal corps. The investigators say Sadatullah used his official email—pmit@sco.gov.pk—to communicate with LeT commanders.

Headley, during his interrogation by the NIA, provided details about Ilyas Kashmiri, a one-eyed senior al Qaeda commander. Headley confirmed to NIA officials that he has twice met Kashmiri in Pakistan.

Sources in the Union home ministry told THE WEEK that Headley was instructed by Iqbal on how and where to collect video footage from. After each trip, he went back to Pakistan and was debriefed by LeT commanders and ISI officers. The ISI officers were so frustrated with the  poor work of Headley that he was twice sent to the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower for surveillance. He was specifically asked to take pictures of the second floor of the Taj, including conference rooms and ballrooms. He was also asked to obtain details of future conferences scheduled at the hotel.

The LeT was aware that despite a lot of preparation the terrorist attack in Bangalore on July 25, 2008, had failed. So, to put the final touches to 26/11, Ali Abdul Aziz al-Hooti, an Omani and LeT’s top organiser in the Gulf, was sent to Mumbai a fortnight before the attack. Ali’s mother is a Marathi and he probably has wide contacts in the state. Ali has transferred money and weapons to India and has helped send recruits to Pakistan from his base in Muscat.

The first hint of Ali’s activities in Oman emerged during the interrogation of Sarfaraz Nawaz, a 32-year old computer expert from Kerala, who was arrested in Oman and is now in Indian custody. “Ali told me that there are 26 LeT teams working in India. And a major portion of LeT consists of ex-military officers of Pakistan,” says Sarfaraz’s interrogation report, a copy of which is with THE WEEK.

Sarfaraz told his interrogators that he had recruited Indians for LeT. Among those he dispatched to Pakistan for training was Fahim Ansari, who was arrested on charges of providing surveillance footage to LeT. He was recently acquitted in the 26/11 case due to lack of evidence.

He and Sarfaraz picked three other boys from Kerala. They were sent to Kashmir and were received by the local LeT operative, Umair Kashmiri. Umair confirmed the arrival of the three boys on his cell phone (9858700498) to Sarfaraz. On September 16, 2008, the two Malayali boys were killed in an encounter with the Army in Kupwara, Kashmir. The third, Abdul Jabbar, was arrested later.

Abdul Jabbar’s interrogation and subsequent arrest of other LeT men in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and other states provided strong evidence that India has been seeking for a long time. The evidence will place the ISI at the centre of a global terrorist conspiracy.

(Oct 21, 2010, THE WEEK)

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