Attempt was made on Bal Thackeray's life: David Headley's shocking disclosure

Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley on Thursday told a court in Mumbai that LeT wanted to eliminate Bal Thackeray but the person who was assigned the job to kill the late Shiv Sena chief was 'arrested' but he managed to give police a slip.

Bal Thackeray. File pic

The 55-year-old, who has turned approver in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case, stated this during a cross-examination on the second day by Abdul Wahab Khan, the lawyer of Abu Jundal, an alleged key plotter of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, via a video link from the US. Headley also told the court that he had visited the Sena Bhavan twice. He, however, did not specify the year for the same.

"We (LeT) wanted to target the chief of Shiv Sena...His name was Bal Thackeray. LeT wanted to kill him wherever a chance arose. I knew that Bal Thackeray was the head of Shiv Sena. I have no first hand knowledge but I think an attempt was made by LeT to kill Bal Thackeray," he said. "I don't know how this attempt was made. I think the person (who was sent to kill Thackeray) was arrested but he managed to escape from police custody. I don't have first hand knowledge about this though," he said.

Headley, convicted in the US for his role in 26/11 Mumbai attacks, also told special judge G A Sanap, who is hearing the 26/11 terror case against Jundal in a sessions court here, that he does not know who else was a target of LeT apart from Thackeray.

When asked by Khan as to how much money he had spent on his visit and reconnaissance in India prior to 26/11 attacks, Headley said, "I am not sure... Many lakhs were spent by me not as high as Rs 30-40 lakhs but much much less. It is correct that ISI spent this money but it is not correct that I demanded the money from them."

Headley said that after the 26/11 attacks, when he had come to India again (in March 2009) at the behest of Al-Qaeda to carry out further attacks, its leader Illiyas Kashmiri gave him about Pakistani rupees one lakh. He claimed while LeT came under the scanner of international community after the November 26, 2008 attacks, it was not correct to say that LeT became 'soft' towards India.

"I think they (LeT) became soft about Denmark (Mickie mouse project) but not India. After the Denmark issue (LeT backing out from attacking Denmark) I went to Al-Qaeda, as LeT had become soft," Headley told the court.

Headley told the court that while he had not personally met any of the 10 attackers in the 26/11 case but he had seen the photo of one of the attackers on internet and identified him as Ajmal Kasab 'Rehmatullah Aliah'. When asked by Khan as to why did he put the words 'Rehmatullah Aliah' after Kasab's name, Headley replied, "When a person is dead he should be prayed for whether he is good or bad. One should pray for the be forgiven. I don't know if Kasab was good or bad as I didn't know him."

When prodded by Khan if what Kasab had done (by participating in 26/11 attacks) was good or bad and if the act of 26/11 was good deed or a bad deed, Headley said, "Of course the act of murder is not going to be a good act. Any kind of murder of innocent person is a bad act."

Khan then asked him if he was 'happy and satisfied' with the damages in the 26/11, to which Headley said "this is an argumentative question. Kush the yeh bhi galat jawab hai, Kush nahi the yeh bhi galat jawab hai, (I was happy is also a wrong answer and I was not happy is too a wrong answer). What can I say ?"

Headley also told the court that in the 26/11 case (in which he has been awarded a 35 years sentence by the US court), supervised release is also part of his sentence. "As per the US law, I have to compulsorily undergo 85 per cent of my sentence and I don't know if my sentence can be terminated before completion of 85 per cent sentence."

He also told the court that within half an hour of his arrest by FBI he had started cooperating with them and gave them all information. Headley also said that he was also interrogated by a team of NIA officials from India and he had cooperated with them too.

"It is not correct that NIA questioned me about my wife Shazia's involvement in 26/11. I did not give any information about Shazia as she had no role..she was not part of the conspiracy," he told the court.

Headley also got into a verbal spat with Khan when the lawyer persistently questioned him about Shazia, his former wife Faiza and their knowledge of the 26/11 terror attack. "The communication between me and my wife Shazia and Faiza are privileged and private and it is none of Mr Wahab's interest," Headley told the court.

The LeT operative however clarified that Shazia was not working for the terror outfit but said that he (Headley) does not know if her father was working for Pakistan's ISI. At one point of time, an irked Headley even asked Khan if he would say where his father works.

This happened after Khan had put forth barrage of questions to Headley like if Shazia had hatred towards India, if she objected to his association with LeT, if she encouraged or appreciated him for his links with LeT, if she had objected to his visit to India in 2009 and if he had revealed to Shazia about all information about 26/11 attack.

On Faiza, Headley clarified that even she was not aware of the 26/11 plan and hence had not objected to him video graphing Taj hotel when they had visited India together prior to the attacks.

Headley also said that Faiza had approached LeT founder Hafiz Saeed requesting him to ask him (Headley) to take her back as he had divorced her.

Khan also asked Headley in Hindi, "did Faiza approach LeT operatives to make you stay away from terrorist activity as she wanted to 'save her suhaag' (husband) ". To this Headley said "Suhag bachana yeh sab dialogue hai koi Hindi film ka ... unko pata hi nahin mein kya kar raha hoon toh sawal hi nahin aata ki muje in sab se bahar nikalna (Saving suhag is a dialogue from Hindi films.. she (Faiza) did not know what I am doing so there is no question of her asking Hafiz about dissuading me from the terror activities)."

When Khan asked Headley if his shops in Dubai are being looked after by LeT, the latter said 'its only in your fantasies.'

On one occasion, when Khan asked if Headley was satisfied with the 26/11 attacks, he berated the lawyer and said, "fizool ki bate kar rahe ho marzi hai aap bolte jara he hai...bewakoofoon se sawal kar rahe hai (you are speaking are uttering whatever you want and asking foolish questions )".

Khan then said that as a lawyer he was just doing his job, to which Headley said "Lag nahin raha hai..chalo theek hai (does not seem so.. but its ok if you say so)".

(With inputs from Sailee Dhayalkar)

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