The double life of David Headley
Updated on 21 January 2010
He is an American citizen who the FBI says helped Pakistani militants plan the 2008 attack on Mumbai. Nevine Mabro looks at the life of David Coleman Headley.
His story is the stuff of Hollywood - or perhaps Bollywood.
He's an American citizen who the FBI says helped Pakistani militants plan the 2008 attack on Mumbai which left over 170 people dead.
David Coleman Headley - a white-skinned, American-born Pakistani - is accused of using his western appearance and US passport to enter India and conduct surveillance of potential terrorist targets. He then gave the information to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), prosecutors say, who carried out the attack.
Headley (photo: copyright NDTV) is now in prison in Chicago, accused of conspiracy to murder and maim in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He is also accused of plotting to blow up the offices of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which offended many Muslims.
US prosecutors say 49-year-old Headley trained in terror camps in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003. He then worked with top leaders of the group plotting attacks for LeT in India, they allege. They say he travelled frequently to Mumbai from his home in Chicago, posing as a businessman and sometimes as a tourist. He rented an apartment in Mumbai and made friends in the city.
Channel 4 News has learnt that just two months before the terrorist attacks, David Coleman Headley told two of his Indian friends that terrorist attacks would soon occur in their country. Unknown to them at the time - it was a chilling warning of an attack that became India's 9/11.
Rahul Bhatt and Vilas Varak met Headley at a Mumbai gym. In September 2008 they were driving with him through the city when he started talked about a recent bomb blast at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
Bhatt says Headley turned to them and said: "You know guys, you're going to see things like that happening in this country soon."
They were driving in South Mumbai - the site of the co-ordinated assault on November 26.
Mr Bhatt says, "I found it strange at the time...I said "how do you know this?" He said "on the internet, you know"."
Just days after the attack, Bhatt and Varak - both in their 20s - received an email from Headley.
"Hey guys, so sorry to see what has happened in Mumbai. We should go over there and kick their ass. I should be coming there in a couple of months....Stay safe, Dave."
What Bhatt and Varak did not know until Headley was arrested two months ago was his alleged role in the attacks.
They say they are shocked at the accusations aimed at their friend. Headley, they say, hid his Pakistani and Muslim heritage from them. To them he was all-American who shared an interest in fitness, guns and action movies.
David Coleman Headley was born Daood Gilani in Washington DC in 1960. His father was a Pakistani diplomat and poet. His mother an American woman from Philadelphia.
He attended the Cadet College Hasan Abdal - an elite military school outside of Islamabad where he became friends with fellow classmate Tahawwur Hussain Rana. Canadian-Pakistani Rana is also accused of involvement in the planning of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and is also being held by authorities in Chicago.
Headley's parents divorced when he was young and his mother returned to the United States. When he was 17-years-old he joined her in Philadelphia where she ran a bar called the Khyber Pass.
Friends say he was shocked at his mother's lifestyle - and found the adjustment from Pakistan to the United States a difficult one. He is now married to a Pakistani woman and they reportedly have four children but friends say he also had American girlfriends.
He got mixed up with drugs, dropped out of college, and ended up trafficking heroin. He was caught twice and agreed to work for the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He provided much needed information on the Pakistani drug trail - and received a reduced sentence in return.
Alleged terror links
Little is known about his life after his time in prison. Around ten years ago he reportedly became involved with the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba. And according to court documents he made his first trip to their training camps in Pakistan in February 2002.
According to prosecutors in Chicago, he became a surveillance scout for the group - and the Mumbai project was first mooted in 2005. He changed his name in 2006 from Daood Gilani to David Headley, "in order to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani" according to the Chicago court documents.
He made five trips, taking video and stills of various targets. Court documents show he took a boat trip through Mumbai harbour scouting out landing points for the attackers (the ten gunmen arrived in Mumbai by boat from Pakistan).
He also took photos of the Taj Palace Hotel, the Oberio and pretended to be a Jew in order to stay at Chabab House, a Jewish community centre in the city that was also attacked.
After each trip, prosecutors say, he went to Pakistan and briefed his LeT co-conspirators on his findings. After the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, he returned to India to scout out new targets - including the National Defence College in Delhi and tourist sites popular with Israeli tourists.
But by this time - it wasn't just Lashkar-e-Toiba that David Headley was working with, prosecutors say. He was allegedly also involved with another Pakistani militant group - HuJI - headed by wanted militant Ilyas Kashmiri (pictured below).
Wanted in India
Headley travelled to Waziristan - a remote tribal province on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border - to meet with Kashmiri, prosecutors say.
The two men were allegedly meeting to discuss another attack - this time on the office of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
But this didn't happen - and David Coleman Headley was arrested in October 2009 at Chicago's O'Hare International airport as he attempted to board a plane to Pakistan.
Indian authorities want to interview David Headley but US officials have so far refused them any access to him. Indian authorities say they are keen to talk to him - to quiz him on his links in Pakistan, especially to the Pakistani ISI directorate who India accuses of supporting Lashkar-e-Toiba.
Headley has pleaded not guilty to the 12 federal charges. Authorities say he is cooperating in the case, which could carry the death penalty.