New federal charges filed today allege that a Chicago man, who was arrested in October for planning terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper and two of its employees, also conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years preceding the November 2008 terrorist attack on India’s largest city that killed approximately 170 people, including six Americans, and injured hundreds more.
The defendant, David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen, earlier this decade allegedly attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan maintained by Lashkar e Tayyiba (Lashkar), and conspired with its members and others in planning and executing the attacks in both Denmark and India, federal law enforcement officials announced today.
Also today, a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in Chicago charging Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), a retired major in the Pakistani military, with conspiracy in planning to attack the Danish newspaper and its employees. Another Chicago man, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen and native of Pakistan, was arrested in October on federal charges filed in Chicago relating to the Danish terrorism plot.
Through his attorneys, Headley has authorized the Justice Department to disclose that he is cooperating in the ongoing investigation of both the Danish and Indian terror plots. He has remained in federal custody without bond since he was arrested in Chicago on Oct. 3, 2009. No date has been set yet for his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Headley, 49, was charged in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, to provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to Lashkar, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India.
The charges were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the FBI’s offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are also participating in the case.
“This case serves as a reminder that the terrorist threat is global in nature and requires constant vigilance at home and abroad,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “We continue to share leads developed in this investigation with our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners as we work together on this important matter.”
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III, said: “This case illustrates the importance of continued global cooperation to combat terrorism around the world. The FBI continues to strengthen relationships and to foster collaboration with our international partners to best ensure our collective ability to identify and disrupt international terror networks.”
“This investigation remains active and ongoing. The team of prosecutors and agents will continue to seek charges against the other persons responsible for these attacks. I continue to express my deep appreciation to the FBI agents and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their extremely hard work on this matter,” said Mr. Fitzgerald.
Mumbai Terror Attacks
According to the charges, after learning from members of Lashkar in late 2005 that he would be traveling to India to perform surveillance for Lashkar, Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani on Feb. 15, 2006, in Philadelphia, in order to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani. He later made five extended trips to Mumbai — in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008 — each time taking pictures and making videotapes of various targets, including those attacked in November 2008.
Starting Nov. 26, 2008, and continuing through Nov. 28, 2008, 10 attackers trained by Lashkar carried out multiple assaults with firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices against multiple targets in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, the Leopold Café, the Nariman House and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, each of which Headley allegedly had scouted in advance, killing approximately 170 victims.
The six Americans killed during the three-day siege are identified in the charges as Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr, and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.
Lashkar (the “Army of the Good”) operated in Pakistan for the principal purpose of fighting to separate from India portions of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization on Dec. 26, 2001. Headley allegedly attended Lashkar training camps in Pakistan that began in February and August 2002 and August and December 2003.
After being tasked in late 2005 with gathering surveillance in Mumbai and changing his name in early 2006, the charges allege that Headley traveled to Chicago in June 2006 and advised a person identified in the charges as Individual A of his assignment. Headley obtained Individual A’s approval to open an office of First World Immigration Services in Mumbai in 2006 as cover for his surveillance activities, the charges allege. Headley allegedly misrepresented his birth name, father’s true name and the purpose of his travel in his visa application.
After each trip that Headley took to India between September 2006 and July 2008, he allegedly returned to Pakistan, met with other co-conspirators and provided them with photographs, videos and oral descriptions of various locations. In March 2008, Headley and his co-conspirators discussed potential landing sites for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea in Mumbai, and he was instructed to take boat trips in and around the Mumbai harbor and take surveillance video, which he did during his visit to India starting in April 2008, the charges allege.
At various times, Headley allegedly conducted surveillance of other locations in Mumbai and elsewhere in India of facilities and locations that were not attacked in November 2008, including the National Defense College in Delhi, India.
Denmark Terror Plot
Regarding the Denmark terror plot, Headley allegedly conspired between October 2008 and Oct. 3, 2009, with Ilyas Kashmiri, as well as a person identified as Individual A, members of Lashkar and others to plan and carry out terrorist attacks, including murder and maiming, against the facilities of the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, and two of its employees, Editor A and Cartoonist A. In 2005, the newspaper published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, to which many Muslims took great offense.
Mirroring the initial charges filed against Headley in October, today’s charges allege that he met with co-conspirators while he was in Pakistan in late 2008 and discussed planning for the attack, including extensive surveillance work that he would perform. In late December and early January 2008, after advising Individual A of the planned attack and his intended travel to Denmark to perform surveillance of the newspaper’s facilities, Headley obtained Individual A’s approval and assistance to identify himself as a representative of First World and gain access to the newspaper by falsely expressing interest in advertising the business in the newspaper. At the same time, while in Chicago, Headley exchanged emails with co-conspirators to continue planning for the attack and coordinate his travel to Denmark to conduct surveillance. Before departing Chicago, Headley obtained business cards that identified him as a representative of First World, according to the charges.
Headley allegedly traveled in January 2009 from Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark, to conduct surveillance of the Jyllands Posten newspaper offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark, and videotaped the surrounding areas. From January through May 2009, Headley met with co-conspirators, including Kashmiri, on multiple occasions in Pakistan to review his surveillance and discuss plans for the attack, the charges allege, adding that Headley traveled in August 2009 from Chicago to Copenhagen to conduct additional surveillance and made approximately 13 videos. On Oct. 3, 2009, Headley was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, intending ultimately to travel to Pakistan to meet with, and deliver, the approximately 13 surveillance videos to co-conspirators, including Kashmiri.
The charges identify Kashmiri as an influential leader of Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), an organization that trained terrorists and executed attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Indian control and other areas. Kashmiri based his operations from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of western Pakistan, and area which served as a haven for terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and the Taliban. Headley allegedly was introduced to Kashmiri as early as February 2009, and understood that Kashmiri was in regular communication with the senior leadership of al Qaeda.
Abdur Rehman complaint
The two-count complaint unsealed against Abdur Rehman, which was filed on Oct. 20, 2009, charges him with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in a foreign country, and providing material support to that foreign terrorism conspiracy. Abdur Rehman allegedly participated in the planning of a terrorist attack in Denmark, coordinated surveillance of the intended targets, and facilitated communications regarding the surveillance and planning with a member of Lashkar and Kashmiri.
Abdur Rehman, who was not named previously but whose alleged participation was described in the initial charges against Headley and Rana, allegedly played the central role in communicating with Headley and facilitating contacts with other co-conspirators in Pakistan, including members of Lashkar. During Headley’s trip to Pakistan in January 2009, Abdur Rehman took him to the FATA region of Pakistan to meet with Kashmiri and solicit the participation of Kashmiri and his organization in the planned attack on the Danish newspaper, according to the complaint against Abdur Rehman. A search of Headley’s luggage when he was arrested revealed a list of phone numbers, including a Pakistani number that he allegedly had used to contact Abdur Rehman.
The count against Headley charging conspiracy to bomb public places in India that resulted in deaths carries a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment or death. All of the other counts against Headley carry a maximum of life imprisonment, except providing material support to the Denmark terror plot, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.
The conspiracy to murder or maim persons in a foreign country charge against Abdur Rehman carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and the count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The prosecution of Headley and Abdur Rehman is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Collins and Victoria J. Peters from the Northern District of Illinois, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The investigation into the Mumbai attacks is continuing with the active participation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
The public is reminded that criminal charging documents contain mere allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.