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March 18, 2010

U.S. citizen scouted Mumbai terrorist landing sites

David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen of partial Pakistani descent, pleaded guilty today to a dozen federal terrorism charges, admitting that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as later planning to attack a Danish newspaper.

In pleading guilty to all 12 counts that were brought against him in December and were repeated in a subsequent indictment in January, Headley admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar e Tayyiba, a designated foreign terrorist organization, on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005. In late 2005, Headley received instructions from three members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times leading up to the Mumbai attacks three years later that killed six Americans among approximately 164 people and wounded hundreds more.

A written plea agreement containing a detailed recitation of Headley's participation in the foreign terrorism conspiracies was presented when Headley, 49, of Chicago, changed his plea to guilty this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in Federal Court in Chicago.

According to the plea agreement, in February 2006, in Philadelphia, Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani to facilitate his activities on behalf of Lashkar by portraying himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani.

Headley eventually made five extended trips to Mumbai -- in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008 -- each time making videotapes of various potential targets, including those attacked in November 2008. Before each trip, Lashkar members and associates allegedly instructed Headley regarding specific locations where he was to conduct surveillance, and Headley traveled to Pakistan after each trip to meet with Lashkar members and associates, report on the results of his surveillance, and provide the surveillance videos.

Before the April 2008 surveillance trip, Headley met with co-conspirators in Pakistan and discussed potential landing sites in Mumbai for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea. Headley returned to Mumbai with a global positioning system device and took boat trips around the Mumbai harbor and entered various locations into the device, according to the plea agreement.

Starting Nov. 26, 2008, and continuing through Nov. 28, 2008, 10 attackers trained by Lashkar carried out multiple assaults with firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices against multiple targets in Mumbai, each of which Headley had scouted in advance, killing approximately 164 victims and wounding hundreds more.

The six Americans killed during the three-day siege are identified in the charges as Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.

According to the Attorney General, Headley, has cooperated with the Government since he was arrested on Oct. 3, 2009, and the plea agreement states that he "has provided substantial assistance to the criminal investigation, and also has provided information of significant intelligence value."

In light of Headley's past cooperation and expected future cooperation, the Attorney General has authorized the U.S. Attorney in Chicago not to seek the death penalty against Headley.


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