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Headley quizzed for 7 days
Published on 12 Jun. 2010 12:37 AM IST
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A team of Indian investigators is headed home after questioning Pakistani American Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley over seven days with “no restrictions on the questions”, US and Indian officials have confirmed.
The four-member team from India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) was “provided direct access to interview Headley”, who has confessed to his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, the US Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.
“As part of the cooperation and partnership between the United States and India in the fight against international terrorism, Indian law enforcement officials were provided direct access to interview” Headley lodged in a Chicago jail, it said.
“Headley and his counsel agreed to the meetings and Headley answered the Indian investigators’ questions over the course of seven days of interviews. There were no restrictions on the questions posed by Indian investigators.”
However, “to protect the confidentiality of the investigations being conducted by both India and the United States, both countries have agreed not to disclose the contents of the interviews,” the justice department said.
Headley, who had changed his given name of Daood Gilani in 2006 to scout targets in Mumbai, had pleaded guilty on March 18 in a Chicago court to 12 federal terrorism charges, admitting that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, as well as later planning to attack a Danish newspaper.
Confirming that the NIA had questioned Headley “over several days,” Indian ambassador Meera Shankar said the team is now returning to India on the conclusion of a “useful visit.” She too provided no further details.
Appreciating the support and cooperation extended by the US authorities, Shankar said this “is in keeping with the commitment of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation in meeting the challenge of terrorism.”
Following discussions with US Attorney General, Eric Holder, a team from the NIA has visited the US for questioning Headley, she said.
“This took place over several days, beginning from June 3, 2010, and the team is now returning to India on the conclusion of a useful visit.
“The Government of India attaches importance to this in investigating the full dimension of this heinous act of terrorist violence,” Shankar said. In a separate statement “proudly” conveying his “strong support” for India-US collaboration on the interview process, US Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer said: “The Headley interviews were historic in the nature of security cooperation. This strategic partnership is significant, substantive, and highly successful.”
The Indian team arrived in the US on May 31, and “conducted a series of interviews related to terrorist activities in India” with Headley beginning June 3, he said praising the “superb cooperation between the Indian team and their American counterparts throughout this process.”
“The US Government worked continuously at the highest levels to ensure that this access occurred and was constructive in advancing our already unprecedented cooperation and information sharing on counter-terrorism issues,” Roemer said.
“As President Obama underscored last week during the US-India Strategic Dialogue, India and the US ‘are cooperating more closely than ever before against transnational threats,’ working to prevent terrorism that threatens both our countries and the world at large,” he said.
The Indian team representing the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was led by Loknath Behera and had been in Chicago since early last week. They conducted the interviews away from the media glare. It is possible that not disclosing anything to the media was part of the ground rules set by Headley’s attorney John Theis. It was not even revealed where Headley was questioned. There was a virtual news blackout until today when the Justice Department issued a short statement.
Sources who may not necessarily have firsthand knowledge of what transpired in the interviews told IANS that keeping the details of Headley’s answers under wraps may have been prompted by the need not to compromise any active leads that both U.S. and Indian investigators may be following currently. Although Headley has been in detention since last October there is reason to believe that he had made enough inroads into outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba to still produce actionable intelligence.

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