Pune was on terror radar, confirms e-mail

via TN Raghunatha | Mumbai published on February 14, 2010

Pune was long on the radar of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) becomes evident, if one were to go through the e-mail correspondence between US terror suspect David Coleman Headley and an unidentified LeT member in July 2009, and Headley’s two visits to Pune in June 2008 and on March 16-17, 2009.

The e-mail correspondence is part of the evidence produced by the FBI, in a criminal complaint filed against Headley and his accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana in an Illinois’ northern district court for conspiring with others to provide material or to commit terrorist acts against “targets” outside the United States.

The e-correspondence between Headley and the member had come into sharp focus, when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probed the “Rahul connection” in the reconnaissance of various terror targets across the country undertaken by Headley prior to and after the 26/11 attacks.

In a 46-page amended criminal complaint in the Illinois court against Rana, Headley and others on October 21, 2009, Lorenzo Benedict, a special agent of FBI, deals with LeT’s plans to launch a new attack in India under the headline “Lashkar-e-Taiba shifts its focus from Denmark to potential new attack in India” on page nos 26, 27 and 28. The name of “Rahul” figures on several occasions on page number 27.

“Rahul” referred to in the e-mail correspondence between Headley and a LeT agent referred to on this page subsequently turned out to be Rahul Bhatt, son of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.

In one of the e-mails sent by an LeT member to Headley on July 10, 2009 that he had “some investment plans” (carrying out terror acts) with him, “not exactly at Rahul’s city, but near that”. Incidentally, Rahul Bhatt lives in Mumbai and the message in question clearly suggests Pune might be the city that LeT member was referring to.

Here are the excerpts of e-mail messages exchanged between Headley and LeT member – as summerised by the FBI investigator in his complaint on page 26, 27 and 28 of the complaint:

July 3, 2009: LeT member writes to Headley – “I need to see you for some new investment plans”

July 8, 2009: Headley replies to LeT member – “What do you want me to do. Where are you interested in making investments?”

July 8, 2009: Headley writes back to LeT member – “I think when we get a chance we should revisit our last location again and say hi to Rahul.”

July 8, 2009:LeT member to Headley – “to see Rahul is a good idea coz have some work for you, over there too. Matters are good enough to move forward…”

July 9, 2009:Headley to LeT member – “When you say ‘move forward’ do you mean North direction or towards Rahul. Also in future if we need to meet and discuss anything, do I have to come all the way over there or can we meet somewhere in the middle like Africa or Middle East”

July 9, 2009: LeT member to Headley – “I mean towards Rahul”

July 10, 2009: Headley to LeT agent: “I would like to know a few things if you can tell me: 1) What is the status with the Northern project, is it still postponed indefinitely?

2) The visit to Rahul’s place, is it for checking out real estate property like before or something different and if so tell me what you can please. Also is it exactly in Rahul’s city or a different one? 3) How long do you think I will need to stay at Rahul’s place to complete this task?

4) Will I have to stay there continuously for a while, or back and forth like before?

July 10, 2009: LeT member to Headley: “There are some investment plans with me, not exactly at Rahul’s city, but near that. Rest we can decide when meet according to your ease.”

July 16, 2009: Headley to LeT member – “One very important thing I need to know please is that how long do you need me for, meaning how long should it take me to finish my work, in your opinion. And is it really urgent? Before it seemed that the Northern Project was really urgent.”

July 18, 2009: LeT member to Headley – “It may take somewhere between 2 to 4 weeks.”

July 19, 2009: Headley to LeT member – “I think I can manage it…..is the Northern Investment definitely postponed for now?’.

The FBI investigator goes onto comment in his complaint before the court: “Based on my review of this and other communications, I believe that Individual A (Headley) had inquired of Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A (the LeT man with whom he is exchanging e-mails) whether the Denmark project was on hold, and whether the visit to India that Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A had asked him to undertake was for the purpose of surveilling targets for a new terrorist attack. Later on July 10, 2009, Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A responded to Individual A’s email, stating, in part, that: “There are some investment plans with me, not exactly at Rahul’s city but near that. Rest we can decide when we meet according to your ease”.

Significantly enough, the FBI investigator also notes that the LeT was “placing higher priority on using Headley to assist in planning new attack in India than on completing the planned attack in Denmark”.

That Headley visited Pune on occasions – in June 2008 and in the third week of March, 2009 has been established during the investigations by the NIA. Records of Hotel Surya Villa at Koregaon Park in Pune -which is in the vicinity of German Bakery where a high-intensity explosion claimed nine lives and left over 50 persons injured on Saturday evening – have revealed that Headley had checked into their hotel on March 16, stayed in room number 202 and checked out at 8 am on March 17, 2009.

During his two visits to Pune, Headley had “surveyed” two target sites – Osho Ashram and Jewish prayer centre “Chabad House”, both of which are in the walking distance of Germany Bakery, a favourite haunt for foreigners visiting Pune. During these visits, there is every possibility of Headley having visited the German Bakery.

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