Headley, Rana operation illustrates Lashkar's 'trans-national' capabilities: Expert

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Washington, Mar.2 (ANI): The arrest of David Coleman Headley and his close aide Tahawwur Hussain Rana from Chicago in October last year, clearly illustrates the Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) 'transnational' capabilities and its nuanced role they (people like Headley) can play in terms of terrorism against India and the West, an expert has said.

In an article for the New American Foundation, a Washington based think tank, Stephen Tankel said Headley was coordinating with at least two Lashkar operatives: Abdul Rehman Hashim Syed, a former Pakistan army officer who oversaw Lashkar's networks in Bangladesh, and an individual identified as "Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A."

Although Washington is yet to disclose the identity of the second man, American and Pakistani officials have said that he is Sajid Mir, a former Pakistan army officer and the head of operations for Lashkar's international wing.

Headley is also suspected of coordinating with Ilyas Kashmiri, a Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) leader who is believed to have close links with Al-Qaeda leadership.

According to Tankel, the LeT was also planning to strike on the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, and this time its target was the National Defence College and two of India's most prestigious boarding schools, but Headley was nabbed before he could share that information on these two potential targets.

Tankel said Coleman's arrest and the subsequent attempted attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka suggests that Lashkar continues to prioritize attacking India.

"The group appears to have been prepared to launch a blended attack in Bangladesh, striking its longtime nemesis India along with a U.S. government target. Attacking the U.S. government signifies a significant evolution in Lashkar's peripheral jihad against the West, suggesting Lashkar has grown bolder in the year since the Mumbai attacks," he said.

Tankel, who is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, underlined that the LeT has penetrated deep into Pakistan's troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and that it would continue to pose threat to India and the West because of its strong ties with other militant outfits in the region.

"Even if it were possible to deter Lashkar completely from undertaking or supporting attacks against the West, an unlikely proposition, the group would continue to pose athreat because of its connections to and collaboration withother militant outfits. The more entrenched Lashkar becomes in the NWFP/FATA, the more robust these connections and collaboration are likely to become," he said. (ANI)

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