An American on trial in the US for allegedly helping Pakistani-based armed men to identify their Mumbai targets has told the court that he had interacted with Pakistani intelligence officials prior to the co-ordinated attacks in 2008.
David Headley told a court on Monday that he had received help and guidance from at least two officers in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to charges of being a co-conspirator in the Mumbai attacks, in which armed men from the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed 166 people, including six Americans.
On the stand as a star witness in the case against Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistan-born Canadian citizen, Headley described his initial contacts and training with LeT on repeated trips to Pakistan and said he was introduced to a retired Pakistani military officer at a mosque.
The 50-year-old also said the LeT fighters consulted with Pakistani intelligence officials on a number of matters.
"These groups operated under the umbrella of ISI ... they co-ordinated with ISI," Headley testified under questioning by prosecutor Daniel Collins.
Rana is accused of using his immigration services firm in Chicago to provide a cover story for Headley's scouting work and to serve as a conduit for communication with the attackers.
Tom Ackerman, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Washington, said Headley had testified that he and Rana "were aware that the ISI was actively assisting militarily, financially and morally Lashkar-e-Taiba".
"But it all depends on whether the jury agrees that David Headley - who is a convicted drug informant for the government and is of course trying to evade the death penalty for his conviction ... [that] his testimony is reliable," he said.
'War against India'
Headley told the court he had wanted to wage war against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir and was told he would get another assignment after Mumbai. He was directed to change his given name, Daood Gilani, to ease travel in India.
Arrested on a trip to Pakistan's northeast while seeking a contact who could help smuggle weapons into India, Headley said he was freed after explaining his connection to LeT by an ISI officer named "Major Ali."
He also told the court that he had suggested to an LeT operations chief named Zaki that a lawsuit be filed against the United States for labelling LeT a terrorist organisation.
Headley, who has been convicted twice of importing heroin into the United States, said he sold his New York liquor store in September 2001 and sent the proceeds to Rana, who became his confidant.
The Mumbai attacks further strained ties between India and Pakistan and brought the two nuclear rivals close to another war. While New Delhi accuses Islamabad of providing armed fighters a safe haven, Pakistan denies prior knowledge of plots against India.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies