David Headley calls terror suspect Tahawwur Rana his ‘closest friend’
By RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 25, 2011 12:40PM
An Indian security official stands guard as smoke and flames billow out of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai in November 2009. | Sajjad Hussain~AFP/Getty images
Updated: October 16, 2011 12:16AM
David Coleman Headley said he wasn’t much of a practicing Muslim in his youth.
He drank, dabbled in drugs, juggled several girlfriends and worked at his mother’s Philadelphia bar, Khyber Pass.
Tahawwur Rana was the complete opposite: pious, strait-laced and a good student, Headley testified at Rana’s federal trial Wednesday.
But the two developed a tight bond that solidified years after Rana spotted the Caucasian-looking boy in Pakistan swearing in Punjabi.
It was that loyalty that motivated Rana to give Headley access to his immigration business so Headley could use it as a front while he surveilled sites in India in preparation for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, prosecutors said.
Headley agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins’ assessment that Rana, 50, was his “closest friend.”
Rana came to the United States to cure Headley’s homesickness when Headley moved to Philadelphia to live with his American mother as a teen, Headley later told Rana’s lawyer Charles Swift.
Swift began chipping away at Headley’s credibility, grilling him about his penchant for using Rana for illegal activities without divulging the whole truth.
Headley admitted that when he visited Rana in Pakistan in 1984, he took the budding military doctor to a tribal region so he could smuggle heroin, but he never told Rana narcotics were involved in the trip.
“He was your friend but he didn’t do what you were doing,” Swift said.
“No,” Headley replied.
Rana put his house up for Headley’s bail when he was charged with a drug conviction in the late 1990s and always tried to make him a “more religious” and “better person,” Headley said.
That’s what Headley said he told Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders when he began taking courses with the militant group more than a decade ago. Headley also said he was trained by “Major Iqbal,” a man he believed to be affiliated with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Prosecutors said Headley briefed Rana about the plans leading up to the overseas attack and kept him in the loop about possibly targeting Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that printed the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons; an office belonging to Shiv Sena, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party; a Hindu temple; Bollywood, and the National Defense College in New Delhi.
However, Headley noted that Rana would never disguise his Islamic faith to help him infiltrate Shiv Sena.
Headley has already pleaded guilty for his role in the Mumbai attacks and a thwarted plot involving Jyllands-Posten’s Copenhagen bureau.