Police silent on Headley role: pins blame on Fahim

Mumbai: If Mumbai Police is to be believed, American-born terrorist David Headley, who has confessed to conducting a recce of all 26/11 targets in the city, may have played no role in the carnage.

The assessment by the Mumbai Police is reflected in its appeal before the Bombay High Court in which its elite Crime Branch is silent on the role of the Pakistan-origin LeT terrorist while contesting the acquittal of Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin in the November 26, 2008 attack that left 166 people dead.

While the Ministry of Home Affairs burnt midnight oil over getting access to Headley after his role in the brazen attack emerged, the focus of Mumbai Police through its Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal D Nikam was that the terrorists intruded into the country`s financial capital with the help of hand-written maps drawn by Ansari.

Headley is at present in a jail in Chicago in the US.

Headley, who was recruited by Pakistan-based Lashker-e- Taiba (LeT) terror group, has confessed to the US authorities and India`s National Investigating Agency (NIA) in front of a magistrate about his role in carrying out the survey of the locations attacked by the terrorists on 26/11.

"When they (police) are seized of the issue of 26/11, it was incumbent upon them to bring forward all criminals concerning the crime and their respective roles played therein before the court of trial and appeal so that truth prevails and no scope for misunderstanding occur," defence counsel for Ansari, R B Mokashi, told PTI here.

Headley`s arrest and subsequent revelations had left Mumbai Police red-faced and punctured their theory of criminal conspiracy involving only Ansari and Sabauddin.

The two had, however, been discharged by the Special Judge M L Tahaliyani saying that better maps were available on Internet.

"As per the judicial confession of Ajmal Kasab, Lashker had explained the targets with the help of video shootings and map. It is clear from the plea bargain of David Headley that he was entrusted the work of taking video of targets," Nikam said and maintained that the maps were prepared by Ansari and Sabauddin.

"One such map was found in the pocket of deceased terrorist Abu Ismail and the hand writing on it is proved to be of Ansari," Nikam claimed.

A response was also sought from Joint Commissioner of Mumbai`s Crime Branch Himanshu Roy to comment on role played by Headley in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. However, there was no immediate response from him.

The claims by Nikam had been rejected by the trial court saying better maps were available on Google and that the hand-written map, recovered from the killed terrorist, was fresh and had no wrinkles on it.

Challenging the judgement of Tahaliyani, the Crime Branch had contended that the basic approach of the lower court that if through sophisticated ways like Global Positioning System and from Google site maps of fixing topographical points are available, then the rustic method of hand-prepared maps was not likely to be resorted to "is totally unwarranted and hypothetical."

Mumbai Police took the view that the recce was done by Ansari and the maps recovered from one of the killed terrorists were prepared by the accused only, if one go by the 78-page appeal filed in the Bombay High Court.

The appeal was filed in August 2010, five months after Headley had pleaded guilty of all charges including his participation in conducting the survey of all targets in Mumbai.

Ansari and Sabauddin had been acquitted by the trial court after dismissing prosecution witness Naruddin Shaikh.