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Friday, July 12, 2013

David Headley mentioned Ishrat’s LeT link, IB says

The MHA affidavit had pointed out how Ishrat was hailed as a martyr on the LeT website and in its publication Ghazva Times soon after the encounter.
The disclosure of Headley’s statement came even as Sushilkumar Shinde said that he would make inquiries from the NIA, and suggested that the IB-CBI feud may be spinning out of government’s control. NEW DELHI: The inter-agency sparring over the Ishrat Jahan case took a new turn with a defiant Intelligence Bureau making available excerpts from a National Investigation Agency report detailing US jihadi David Headley's account about the teen's terror links. Even as a Congress-BJP political slugfest over the "fake encounter" unfolds with Congress leader Digvijaya Singh asking the home ministry to clarify if Headley — who surveyed 26/11 targets for Lashkar-e-Taiba — had indeed flagged Ishrat's LeT links, the NIA extract fanned the controversy further. According to excerpts from Headley's "unabridged" statement to the NIA, shared with TOI, the American LeT operative, on being asked about Ishrat, said LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi had told him in 2005 that she was part of Muzammil's "botched up" operations. Lakhvi is currently under arrest in Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks. "I state that in late 2005, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi introduced Muzammil to me. Having introduced Muzammil, Zaki talked about the accomplishments of Muzammil as a Lashkar commander. Zaki also sarcastically mentioned that Muzammil was a top commander whose every big 'project' had ended in a failure. "Zaki added that Ishrat Jahan module was also one of Muzammil's 'botched up' operations," says Para 168 of the NIA report shared with the IB. It adds, in Para 169, that Headley stated that "apart from this, he had no other information/knowledge about Ishrat Jahan". With the CBI naming senior IB official Rajinder Kumar as complicit in the fake encounter of Ishrat and three others, the disclosure of Headley's statement to NIA appeared to be retaliation by his colleagues who are upset about Kumar being allegedly a "collateral victim" of the Congress-BJP fight. Interestingly, the NIA did not place this part of Headley's interrogation in the public domain, apparently on the ground that it amounted to hearsay. Intelligence sources, however, wonder how the rest of Headley's revelations were investigated and scrutinized while the Ishrat bit was discounted. With BJP harping on the Headley evidence, Digvijay Singh, who met home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Friday, complained about NIA, IB and CBI speaking in different voices. He sought to know if Headley had indeed told NIA that Ishrat was part of an LeT module. The BJP too joined in, asking the government to come clean on the Mumbra teen's alleged terror background. The disclosure of Headley's statement came even as Shinde said that he would make inquiries from the NIA, and suggested that the IB-CBI feud may be spinning out of government's control. NIA, for its part, maintains Headley's disclosures have no evidentiary value and are based on "hearsay". It has been suggested that the agency took this position on being nudged by the political authority. It is believed that Headley consented to being interviewed by NIA on the condition that nothing he says would be used for purposes other than aiding further investigation. The statement made by Headley to FBI is learnt to be even more damning. The FBI statement, as quoted by IB, refers to Headley's revelation that Muzammil, with the help of Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, had recruited Ishrat as a potential bomber. The LeT module, he is reported to have said, was planning attacks on temples in India. Interestingly, MHA's own affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court in 2007 cites Ishrat's links with LeT. It states Javed was in touch with the Lashkar cadres who were planning a major operation in Gujarat. It said Javed, who converted to Islam but secured a passport in his original Hindu name, Pranesh Pillai, had travelled to Dubai, where he worked for Lashkar. Later, he met Ishrat in Mumbai and convinced her to join him. Though the MHA revised the affidavit in 2009, it only delinked itself from the follow-up action on the IB inputs, but stopped short of disowning the inputs on terror links of the slain module. The MHA affidavit had pointed out how Ishrat was hailed as a martyr on the LeT website and in its publication Ghazva Times soon after the encounter. The postings had taken umbrage to her veil being removed. Interestingly, the post on the said website was pulled off in 2007, and an apology tendered for her being labeled an LeT cadre. This came just before Gopinath Pillai, father of Javed Sheikh, filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe into the encounter. MHA's 2009 affidavit said the apology was only a "tactical ploy" of LeT to disown her.
IB explains to govt about CBI hurdle to counter-terror operations
TNN | Jul 7, 2013, Sources said the role of the IB team in Gujarat in the Ishrat case stopped at collecting, processing and sharing of inputs. NEW DELHI: With the possibility of their senior officer Rajinder Kumar being prosecuted by the CBI in the Ishrat Jehan "fake encounter" case growing by the day, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has cautioned the government that the yardstick being applied by the CBI to fix the official's culpability can imperil counter-terror operations in future. Sources said that top IB officials have bluntly told the home ministry that the CBI's approach towards Kumar and four other IB officers does not take into account either the nature of their job or the operational requirements of the shadowy war against terrorism. They assert that the role of Kumar was limited to passing on the intelligence inputs about a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module that was on the prowl, and IB officials from now would be wary of associating themselves with counter-terror operations if he were to be prosecuted for murder when he was only doing his duty." We have conveyed our view to the home minister and the home secretary as candidly as we could," said a senior official. "This is an asymmetric war waged against an enemy who does not play by the rules. Government has to appreciate that no counter-terror operation can succeed if the officials were made to follow the rules which are applicable in the case of common criminals," said sources that the role of the IB team in Gujarat in the Ishrat case stopped at collecting, processing and sharing of inputs. "They did not do anything different from what was done in the Batla House case or the Ansal Plaza case, which pertained to passing on the intelligence inputs on terror plots," said the official, stressing that the IB cannot be held responsible for what the Gujarat Police personnel might have made out of the inputs passed on to them. While distancing the agency from the alleged fake encounter, he claimed that the intelligence gathering in the case had the makings of a successful counter-terror operation and would have been appreciated had it not been for alleged extra-judicial killings. Giving details of the case, he said, the IB worked on the breakthrough made by Gujarat Police's Crime Branch when the latter managed to zero in on two Indian youth who had returned to India after training in a LeT camp in Pakistan. Identified as C1 and C2 in CBI's chargesheet, the duo disclosed, IB sources claimed, to the Crime Branch about LeT commander Muzammil's plan to target five senior Sangh Parivar leaders in mid-May, 2004. Interestingly, the plan had been made on the assumption that the BJP was going to win the election and that there would be a huge victory rally in Ahmedabad around May 15 when Lalaji (LeT's code name for L K Advani) and Mubarak ( Narendra Modi) would be present, perhaps because Advani, who represents Gandhi Nagar in Lok Sabha, would be on a thanksgiving visit. The Crime Branch shared the information with the IB and they together managed to get CI and C2 to agree to lure a LeT sleeper cell to Gujarat. On his part, Muzammil did not abort the plot despite noting that the BJP had "failed" at the hustings, and dispatched a Pakistani LeT operative, Zeeshan Zohar, to Gujarat. Zeeshan, one of the two Pakistanis killed in the alleged encounter, was taken by CI and C2 to an accommodation which the IB and the Gujarat Police were keeping under 24x7 surveillance. Muzammil also arranged for the delivery of a weapon through another Indian operative of Lashkar who was subsequently killed in an encounter in Uttar Pradesh. The delivery of the weapon occurred near a place of worship in Ahmedabad with the officials of IB and Gujarat Police watching from a distance. They did not intervene because they wanted to catch the entire module, though they took the precaution of ensuring that the weapons remained in the possession of C1 and C2. "This was because we were not sure what the Pakistani would have done with the weapons". Shortly afterwards, Amzad Ali Rana, another Pakistani who was killed in the "fake" encounter also arrived. Rana who was earlier active in J&K and had even suffered a bullet wound for which he was treated here, found something amiss about the accommodation that CI and C2 had arranged, and insisted on moving out with Zeeshan. C1 and C2 promptly passed on the information to Gujarat Crime Branch who took the Pakistani duo to a farm to be kept in illegal confinement. Rana and Zeeshan were made to have "controlled conversation" — pistols pointing at their head — with Muzzamil where they were told, as coached by Crime Branch officers, by the LeT commander that one more Lashkar operative would be needed. The LeT agent who was to set out to join them was Javed Sheikh. According to sources, the IB team and Crime Branch officials had already homed in on Javed, — helped by the conversation he had with Muzamill on the terrorist leader's satellite phone from Ernakulum — they did not interrupt him until he reached Gujarat to meet Zohar and Rana. "The idea in such operations is always is to nab the entire module," explained IB sources. Javed, however, didn't come alone. Accompanying her on that trip was Ishrat, a teenager from Mumbra in Mumbai, who was killed along with others in the encounter which, according to CBI, was "fake". " We don't know whether she was also a Laskhar fidayeen as another Lashkar commander Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi claimed to US jehadi and 26/11 plotter David Headley. May be she just happened to be at the wrong place at a wrong time. But whatever happened to her can be pinned on Rajinder Kumar only at the cost of setting a precedent which would deter the IB from using covert tricks without which you cannot win against the terrorist," said IB officers.
Ishrat case: Ex-MHA official claims he was coerced into giving statement
Bharti Jain, TNN | Jul 11, 2013
There is a feeling in the MHA that the decision of the CBI to approach Mani, a junior officer, directly rather than through the ministry may have been intentional. NEW DELHI: A former home ministry official questioned by the SIT officer assisting CBI in the Ishrat Jahan probe has alleged that he was coerced, complaining how he was subjected to a "rough" interrogation and asked to sign a statement with twisted facts. R V S Mani, who had prepared the two MHA affidavits in the case, was summoned to Gandhinagar and questioned by IG, SIT, Satish Verma last month. Soon after his questioning, Mani wrote to his seniors in the urban development ministry, where he is currently posted, claiming that he was forced to sign a statement that presented facts he was not privy to. He alleged discrepancies in the facts to his knowledge and framing of the same by Verma. Verma, when reached by TOI, declined comment. The MHA, which has been apprised of Mani's observations, has cried foul against attempts by the SIT to influence junior officers like Mani. Senior MHA officials are of the view that the summons for Mani should have been ideally routed through the MHA, as the affidavits concerned the ministry and not any individual officer. Though MHA officials also pointed out that Mani should have intimated the ministry when summons were served on him, they feel he may have not been well versed with the procedures. Even his senior, who knew of his summons, did not reach out to the MHA. There is a feeling in the MHA that the decision of the CBI to approach Mani, a junior officer, directly rather than through the ministry may have been intentional. "A junior officer cannot handle tough and leading questions and can be easily intimidated. He can be coerced into framing his answers to suit the agency's line of investigation," an official said. Mani, in a note to his seniors soon after his questioning by Verma, said he refused to sign the statement framed by the SIT, as it would have gone against his seniors at the time. Some parts of his statement have reportedly been recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC without his signature. CBI has already denied coercing Mani into giving a statement. TOI

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