LeT and Al-Qaeda were convinced that 26/11 attack masterminds Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman would face only "superficial" action from the Pakistani authorities and within months plans were afoot for another terror strike in India, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley said today.
Headley, who is serving a 35-year jail term in the US in connection with the 26/11 case, said this before a special court here via video link from the US during his deposition which concluded today.
The 55-year-old LeT operative told the Special Judge G A Sanap that after the attacks in Mumbai he was concerned about the safety of Saeed and Lakhvi and hence was in constant touch with LeT operative Sajid Mir, who was his handler, and Al-Qaeda member Abdul Rehman Pasha (former LeT cadre).
"FIA (Federal Investigating Agency of Pakistan) was conducting investigations, interrogating people and pursuing people from LeT. Hence I asked Mir about 'old uncle' (Saeed) and 'young uncle'(Lakhvi). Mir, in his reply, said that young uncle is fine and flying high. I think by this Mir meant that Lakhvi's morale was high even though he was in prison at that time," Headley said.
Mir also said that "old uncle is fit and healthy like anything. Don't put ears to rumours, he is moving back and forth like a tornado for his business and he (Mir) gave solace," the LeT approver said.
Responding to one of his mails, Pasha had written, "don't worry everything here is normal. By this Pasha meant that I need not worry (about Saeed and Lakhvi) as the action against them and other LeT members are superficial," said Headley.
Giving further details about anti-India activities, Headley said eight months after the Mumbai strike, Mir had sent an e-mail to him saying that another location needs to be scouted in India for future attacks.
"Mir in his mail has said an 'investment plan' needs to be made (meaning another location for attack). I told Mir that this time the attack should not be in 'Rahul (Bhatt's) City. I referred to Mumbai as Rahul City," he said while informing the court that all the emails had coded language.
Headley, who had scouted the November 2008 targets in Mumbai, said he had visited Pushkar, Goa and Pune in March 2009 and recced the cities as sought by Ilyas Kashmiri of Al-Qaeda.
He also visited the Indian Army's Southern Command headquarters at Pune in 2009 on the instructions of ISI's Major Iqbal, who wanted him to recruit some military personnel to get "classified" information, Headley revealed.
After the deposition which began on Monday, the court adjourned the case for cross-examination by accused and key 26/11 plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal's lawyer for a future date.
Headley said Mir and Major Iqbal had encouraged him to develop close relations with Raja Ram Rege (a former member of Shiv Sena) and they would decide in the future if he (Rege) would be of any use to them.
"On May 19, 2008 Rege has sent me an e-mail regarding certain investment I forwarded it to Mir, Iqbal and Rana and sought their advice. While Rana was ready to make the investments, Iqbal was not ready for any terror strike and only wanted information about military while Pasha, Mir and me wanted (a terror) attack," he told the court.
He also claimed that he had suggested to Rege to call late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav to US so that they could 'take care' of them.
Major Iqbal, Headley said, had raised some questions about the use of Rege. "Iqbal wanted to know if Rege could provide information on Indian military and paramilitary force. Iqbal asked me to keep Rege engaged in seminars and conferences in US," Headley said.
When the court played the audio transcripts of the conversation between the LeT handlers operating from a control room in Karachi and the attackers, Headley identified the voices of Abu Kahfa, Mir and Abu Al-Kama (LeT operative). "I cannot understand or identify any other voice," he added.
Headley told the court that when he asked Mir 'are most of the problems solved for uncle and his friends' he was referring to leadership of LeT that is Saeed and Lakhvi.
He said that in another e-mail to Mir referring to Saeed he wrote 'old uncle got H1 Virus too? Do the docs in hospital wants to give him checkup'. By this I meant if Hafiz Saheb was under investigation and he would be arrested," he said.
He also told the court that once Pasha told him that 'Chacha revealed some facts about Ismael under pressure'. "Pasha referred to Lakhvi as Chacha while Ismael was me," he said.
He also told the court that he (Headley) was never arrested or called for interrogation by FIA despite several visits to Pakistan after 26/11 attacks, which left 166 dead and 309 injured.
"Investigating agencies in Pakistan had never arrested me at any point of time neither FIA ever called me for interrogation during my stay in Pakistan. Mir or Major Iqbal were also nerver arrested by FIA," Headley told the court.
He said though Pasha was not arrested in the 26/11 attacks case in July-August 2009, he was arrested in connection with another case.
Headley told the court that after the November 2008 attacks, he apprehended his arrest or killing in India which he was going to visit in March and hence had made a will which he sent to his business partner Tawahur Rana.
"In March 2009, I sent a mail to Rana and enclosed my will, I sent it as I knew that I was going back to India and in the event that I would be arrested or killed. I wanted him to take care of certain personal/family matters as I thought it was a responsible thing to do," the LeT operative said.
After Nikam concluded his examination, Jundal's lawyer sought four weeks' time for cross-examining Headley.
While Nikam objected to this, assistant attorney in US Sarah told the court that they would not be available in the near future and a fresh request would have to be made to fix a date for cross-examination.
The court asked Jundal's lawyer to inform Nikam by February 22 the exact time and number of days he would require to cross examine Headley after which the prosecutor would initiate further process.