London, Oct. 19 (ANI): David Headley, a 48-year-old Pakistani American incarcerated in a Chicago jail for his role in the November 2008 terror strikes on Mumbai, has reportedly told his Indian and American interrogators that he helped the Lashkar-e-Taiba prepare for the attack and simultaneously relayed information to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) about the militant outfit's activities.
According to the Guardian, Headley, of mixed Pakistani and US parentage, had played a central role in preparing the operation. When on a mission, Headley said, he usually recorded images of potential targets on two memory sticks, one for Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the other for the ISI.
According to the 106-page transcript of Indian investigators' interviews with Headley earlier this year, even before meeting Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders, Headley had sat down with "Major Iqbal", an officer in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the main military intelligence agency.
This was not the first meeting with the man he called his handler. Before and after almost every visit to India, Headley told his questioners, he had met Iqbal to receive instructions or brief him.
And one reason that he had been able to avoid detection was because in 2007 Iqbal had trained him in clandestine techniques. The skills learned on the streets of Lahore and put to use in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and other cities across India only took Headley so far, however.
Eleven months after the attacks, now involved in plots for attacks in the west, he was arrested in Chicago on his way back to Pakistan.
A member of the group since 2002, he saw footage of the carnage in Mumbai and exchanged e-mails with his wife.
The tall, pony-tailed, multi-lingual US graduate was the perfect spy for the militant organisation, particularly after changing his name from Daood Gilani. He made nine reconnaissance trips to India before 26/11.
Headley's testimony, recorded in 34 hours of interviews with Indian investigators in the presence of FBI officials in June this year, does not just detail relations between the ISI and the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. It also provides a glimpse of the workings of one of the world's most secretive militant organisations.
The attacks, his testimony suggests, grew out of the pressure on commanders of Lashkar-e-Taiba to wage a wider war against the west.
However, despite detailing close contacts with his handler, the picture that emerges from Headley's interrogation is of a chaotic and complex relationship between the ISI and the militants, with the former not always fully aware of developments.
Headley told his questioners that Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director general of the ISI, visited Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the operations chief of LeT, in prison after the attacks in an attempt to "understand" the operation, implying that top level officers were not fully informed.
Pasha replaced General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as head of the ISI just over a year before the attacks.
Security sources have told the Guardian that they believe the ISI command lost "ownership" of the operation around that time.
Stephen Tankel, the author of a forthcoming book on LeT, said: "The ISI had more control over the LeT than they admit publicly, but probably less than they'd like to have privately."
The ISI denied any links to the Mumbai attacks yesterday. (ANI)