There is emerging evidence to suggest that alleged Lashkar terrorists David Headley and Tahawwur Rana might have been planning a fresh 26/11-style attack in India, with Jewish synagogues and Chabad Houses as its prime targets. India is sharing details of the investigations in the case with Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau. Headley and Rana were arrested in Chicago by the FBI in October, and charged with plotting attacks in India and Europe at the behest of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Government sources told The Indian Express that an FBI team, which landed in the Capital on Sunday, has brought data to fill crucial gaps in the Headley-Rana investigations.
The information that the team is expected to share with their Indian counterparts is likely to clinch the involvement of Headley and Rana with the alleged planners of 26/11, including Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed and commanders Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah. The FBI is also likely to share information on whether the Lashkar’s Sajid Mir and Abdul Rehman were indeed the duo’s handlers. It is now clear that Headley and Rana carried out extensive reconnaissance of places frequented by Israeli tourists in India.
The mandatory C-form of Headley, and further investigations thereon, have revealed that this was the major reason for his two-day visit to Pushkar in March 2009. He stayed at the Oasis Hotel close to the local Jewish centre. Indian investigators have also found that Headley conducted similar reconnaissance on a trip to Pune, but are yet to uncover his local contacts. All these details are being shared with the Israelis, it is learnt.
New Delhi has been tight-lipped on whether the FBI tipped off Tel Aviv on the possibility of an attack on a Jewish establishment in India on the basis of the Headley-Rana intercepts. Security agencies, however, are learnt to have reasons to believe that the two travel advisories issued by the Israeli counter-terrorism bureau in September and October this year were rooted in evidence collected in the US.
On September 15, the Israelis issued an advisory saying there was high-level information to indicate that the group that carried out 26/11 was planning several strikes in India with Israelis and Westerners as targets.
On October 16, a second advisory was issued, saying that the “new danger has become stronger” with the possibility of terror attacks in India on synagogues, Chabad Houses, and popular Israeli tourist hotspots in Goa. The advisory also asked Israeli nationals to stay away from Jammu and Kashmir.