'Man who came to kill Thackeray was arrested, but he slipped away'
Apart from repeatedly snapping at Abu Jundal’s lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan, 26/11 plotter David Coleman Headley made a startling confession on the second day of his cross examination — that of knowing of an attempt to kill the late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Headley said the person who was assigned the job was “arrested” but he managed to give the police a slip.
However, the Mumbai Police believes his claim is based on hearsay and bears no truth. But, they are not taking this lightly and have started investigating the matter. Nobody in the police department seems to know about this man. Senior officers from the Crime Branch said that Headley’s statement seems to be based on hearsay. But they are still trying to make inquiries into his claim.
Headley said he had visited the Sena Bhavan twice. He also named the person that was to be attacked saying, “Chief of the Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray.” Headley also said that as per second hand knowledge, LeT made an attempt to attack Bal Thackeray, “wherever the chance arose.”
He later said he was not aware of Thackeray being a respected leader. He further said that he could not explain the attempt. When asked whether he remembers the year the attempt was made, he said, “I don’t have first hand knowledge but the person who made the attempt was arrested and later, he escaped from custody.”
During the February examination by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, Headley had said Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had considered attacking either Shiv Sena Bhavan or Bal Thackeray. “I was interested in accessing that building, and tried to forge a bond with Rege (Rajaram Rege, Shiv Sena member). I was following ISI agent Sajid Mir’s instructions. After giving him the videos of Sena Bhavan, Mir said he could make an attempt to attack the Sena supremo or his party headquarters,” Headley said.
‘None of your business’
Headley told court that he does not remember whether the National Investigation Agency (NIA) asked him questions about his wife Shaziya, and also said he was not asked about her involvement in the 26/11 attacks case. Another time he snapped at Khan was when he was asked about Shaziya’s activities, to which he said, “What kind of activities? cooking and events,” adding, “I think NIA was a gentleman to not ask about this (wife), unlike Abdul Wahab Khan.”
Khan further went on to ask Headley 15 questions about Shaziya and her response to his connection with the LeT and 26/11 attacks. Headley snapped once again and said, “The conversation with my wife is none of your business, it is a privileged and private conversation.” After saying this, Headley kept saying, “Same as before” to Khan’s other questions on Shaziya.
Codes and cartoons
Headley informed the court that he and Shaziya communicated in code language through e-mails. During 26/11, Shaziya said “I am watching cartoons,” which was a code she used for letting him know she was watching the attacks on TV. She spoke in these codes for his protection.
During the attack Shaziya also said, “I have been watching cartoons; I am proud of you.” Headley himself had instructed Shaziya to communicate in code language. When Khan asked him whether Shaziya hated India, Headley said, “After I conduct a survey, I will let you know.” Another time Headley snapped at Khan was when he was asked about Shaziya’s father’s workplace. “That’s private. Where was your father working,” he said, smiling.
‘What a dialogue’
When Headley couldn’t understand a question, Khan explained it to him in the Urdu language, asking him whether Shaziya approached the LeT chief to get her husband back. Headley said, “Jab unke knowledge mein baat hi nahi thi, toh bachaane ka sawal he nahi hai (Since she did not know about the matter, saving me was out of the question).
“She went to them because I respected them and thought I would be influenced by them, but not to save me, khuda ke vaste (for god’s sake).” To this, Khan said, “Biwi hi bacha sakti hai apne suhaag ke liye, (Only a wife can save her husband like that) Headley replied, “Aapne toh film ka dialogue maara hai (You seem to be saying the dialogue of a movie)”.
26/11, good or bad?
Headley told the court that while he had not personally met any of the 10 attackers in the 26/11 case, he had seen the photo of one of the attackers on the Internet and identified him as Ajmal Qasab ‘Rehmatullah Aliah’.
When asked by Khan as to why did he put the words ‘Rehmatullah Aliah’ after Qasab’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 person...to be forgiven. I don’t know if Qasab was good or bad as I didn’t know him.”
When prodded by Khan if Qasab’s actions (participating in 26/11 attacks) were good or bad and if 26/11 was a 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 an innocent person is a bad act.”
When Khan asked compared to damages in casualty, were you planning a more serious attack, Headley got angry and said, “Fizul or bewaakufo waala sawal puch raha hai.....jitna khichna hai khich. (He is asking unnecessary and stupid questions… stretch this as much as you like)”. Khan spoke saying, “Lag nahi raha (doesn’t seem so). You want to argue with me and not ask questions.”
Headley also said he joined al-Qaeda after LeT went soft with the attack on Denmark. Headley also said that in March 2009, when he was conducting a recce for al Qaeda at prominent places in Delhi, he was paid less than a Rs 1 lakh in cash, while he was paid lakhs for his Mumbai recce.
— With inputs from Agencies