Indictment links Chicago suspects to top Al Qaeda commander

January 14, 2010 7:13:49 PM PST
A Chicago resident who likens himself to the great peacemaker Mahatma Gandhi faces new federal charges that he was a hand puppet of Al Qaeda's top operation's commander.Click Here to read the Federal Indictment

Pakistani-born Tahawwur Hussain Rana was named in a U.S. grand jury indictment late Thursday, charged with preparing the way for a three-day terrorist attack on Mumbai in India in 2008. Rana was indicted along with Ilyas Kashmiri who is considered the commander in chief of global terror operations for al-Qaida. Kashmiri, one of the world's most sought-after terror figures, is charged for the first time in the Chicago case.

The men are accused of having direct roles in the Nov. 2008 siege that killed 164 people including 6 Americans, say federal prosecutors.

Chicagoan David Coleman Headley was also named in the indictment unsealed on Thursday along with a retired Pakistani military officer. Headley is cooperating with the government according to U.S. Justice Dept. officials.

Messrs Rana and Headley were arrested by the FBI in October on charges of plotting and planning terrorist attacks in India and Denmark. Today's grand jury indictment lodges additional, more serious charges and especially raises the legal stakes for Rana-who has been fighting for his release on bond.

Rana, an Illinois travel agent, grocer and goat farmer, has maintained his complete innocence and claims to have been duped by Headley.

Among key pieces of evidence that federal authorities have; tape recordings of conversations that Rana had with Headley during a long car drive on September 7, 2009. The FBI said the duo discussed their roles in the bloody Mumbai terrorist attack.

"It is clear from the conversation and extrinsic corroboration that Rana was told just days before the Mumbai attacks that the attacks were about to happen" FBI agents have said.

"Elsewhere in the conversation, Rana asked Headley to pass Rana's compliments directly to the specific Lashkar-e- Tayiba member they both knew who had coordinated the attacks," according to FBI statements in the court record.

The indictment alleges that Rana, 49, met Abdur Rahman Hashim Syed, a retired Pakistani Army Brigadier, who is known in terrorist circles as "Pasha." "Pasha" is a retired Pakistani military officer who was allegedly Headley's direct link to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of Pakistan's most wanted terrorists and a direct link to al Qaeda.

Rana was indicted Thursday on three counts of providing material support to terrorism or a terrorist organization ? one count of providing material support in preparation for and in carrying out the Mumbai attacks; one count of providing material support to the Denmark terrorism plot; and one count of providing material support to Lashkar e Tayyiba (Lashkar.) Translated as the "Army of the Good," Lashkar operated in Pakistan for the principal purpose of fighting to separate from India portions of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Lashkar was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in December 2001.

The new charges against Rana carry a penalty of up to life in prison upon conviction. No date has been set yet for him to be arraigned in federal court in Chicago. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber.