CHICAGO – U.S. prosecutors charged four Pakistani men Monday in connection with the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 166 people, including six Americans, although none of the defendants is in U.S. custody.
A second superseding indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago adds Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal and a fourth defendant known only by the alias "Major Iqbal" to a case that already included an American businessman and two others with alleged ties to the Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure).
The U.S. and India say the 10 gunmen in the three-day siege in Mumbai were trained and directed by Lashkar.
The new defendants were charged with aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India, conspiracy to murder and maim and providing material support to Lashkar. Mir, Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal also were charged with conspiracy to bomb public places.
The fresh indictment comes just weeks before the scheduled trial of American businessman Tahawwur Rana on charges of helping to plan the Mumbai rampage. Prosecutors say Rana, who owned First World Immigration Services in Chicago, helped another American, David Coleman Headley, open a First World office in Mumbai as cover so that Headley could scout sites for the attack.
Headley pleaded guilty to scouting the Mumbai sites and to plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. He agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities in an exchange for a promise that the government would not seek the death penalty against Headley if he continues to assist their terrorism investigation.
Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, would not comment on whether Headley provided the names of the new defendants or if U.S. officials know where they are. It is unclear whether Headley will testify against Rana.
Prosecutors allege that Mir served as a "handler" for Headley and others involved in the Mumbai attacks on behalf of Lashka, that Qahafa trained others in combat techniques used in the attacks, that Mazhar Iqbal was a Lashkar commander and that "Major Iqbal" helped plan and fund the attacks. Major Iqbal also allegedly passed messages to Headley through Rana, according to court papers.
Headley attorney Robert Seeder did not return a phone message left at his office Monday night. But he has said that Headley's decision to help the U.S. government was "a manifestation and example of his regret and remorse" and not just because it spares him the death penalty.
Also charged with Rana in a previous indictment were terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri and retired Pakistani military man Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, whose whereabouts were unknown.
In his plea agreement, Headley admitted that he made surveillance videos and conducted other intelligence gathering for the Mumbai attack and that he met with Kashmiri in May 2009 in a tribal area of western Pakistan. He said Kashmiri told him he had a European contact who could provide Headley with money, weapons and manpower for an attack on Denmark's Jyllands Posten newspaper, which offended many Muslims in 2005 by publishing a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. That attack never happened.
Rana is accused of helping Headley plan the newspaper attack by making travel arrangements and providing other support.
Rana has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark and India, as well as to Lashka. A message seeking comment Monday from Rana's attorney, Patrick Blegen, was not immediately returned.
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