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Terror trial reveals links to top Pakistani officials

May 24, 2011 4:25:28 PM PDT
The federal government's star witness at a Chicago terrorism trial testified Tuesday that he dealt with top government officials and terrorists in Pakistan a month before the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

The witness, Chicagoan David Coleman Headley, told vivid details of the terror plot he enlisted defendant Tahawwur Rana to help carry out. Rana is on trial for aiding a deadly terror attack on Mumbai, India, two and a half years ago.

At the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in the Loop, behind what federal authorities call the heaviest security curtain for any criminal trial in Chicago history, Headley Tuesday carefully described a two-man terrorist operation based on the North Side that he ran with his boyhood friend from Pakistan, Tahawwur Rana.

Headley said he was recruited by Hafiz Saeed to take part in the plot to attack Mumbai. Saeed is the leader of Pakistan's bloodthirsty terrorist sect called Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Headley claims he told Rana all about the terrorist attack plot five months before it was carried out, including a strategy of shooting hostages to prevent any struggles and then beheading them later, to which Rana replied, "Good," according to Headley.

After numerous combat attack training missions and several reconnaissance trips to Mumbai, Headley told jurors that he had a final meetings with terrorist handlers just one month before the massacre was executed.

After the three-day armed takeover was finished, Headley said that he was "pleased" with the outcome: More than 160 dead, hundreds hurt, prominent buildings burned and wrecked.

Rana operated a Devon Avenue travel and immigration storefront. Headley testified that Rana provided him with a seemingly legitimate front business for their terrorist scheme by having him open a satellite travel office in Mumbai and obtaining an Indian visa for him.

Federal prosecutors Tuesday also established Rana and Headley's longtime friendship with the consul general for Pakistan in Chicago. As the I-Team reported last fall, all three men attended the same boys military school in Pakistan.

Defense attorneys have told jurors that Rana was duped by his friend David Headley and did not know what the plans were. Defense attorneys say they will rip Headley's credibility as a witness, saying he has been motivated to change his story and that he was working for the U.S. government even as he said he was working terrorists and Pakistan's spy agency.

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