Desperately seeking Headley, still the key to 26/11 probe


Three years after his arrest, David Coleman Headley remains vital yet elusive for Indian authorities probing the 26/11 Mumbai attack a man who has helped unravel much of the Lashkar-e-Toiba "conspiracy" behind the attack but who is yet to reveal his deepest secrets about his handlers, and who has struck a bargain against his extradition from the United States.

Headley, a US-born LeT operative also known as Daood Gilani, was arrested by the FBI from Chicago airport on October 3, 2009, when he was about to board a flight to Pakistan. Getting him extradited to India is one of the key objectives of an Indian team now in the US. The team includes National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths who are meeting their counterparts in the FBI, and senior officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs who, ministry sources said, will raise the extradition when they meet officials in the FBI and the US Department of Justice.

Headley has entered into a plea bargain with US authorities preventing his extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark. The Indian side is expected to argue that the bargain is "a derogation of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and the extradition treaty between US and India".

Until Headley's arrest, investigators only had claims about the LeT's involvement in the 2008 attack. He has since provided details on the roles of Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the logistics, and the training that went into the preparation for the attack.

After a Delhi court recently took cognisance of the NIA chargesheet, special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said, "The prosecution (NIA) will bring Headley for extradition." In court, he said, "We do not recognise the plea agreement between the US and Headley. It is a derogation of the MLAT and extradition treaty between India and the US. We are only relying on the part of the plea agreement where Headley admits his guilt."

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