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U.S. court hears fresh detail about Mumbai-massacre targets

Inside details about how targets were selected in the 2008 Mumbai massacre were revealed in a Chicago court on Tuesday, as an admitted terrorist-turned-FBI informant gave his second day of testimony.

David Headley, a 50-year-old Pakistani-American who has confessed to being a scout for a terror group known as Lahkar-e-Taiba, laid out months of meticulous planning and occasional improvisation involving him and his handlers in Pakistan.

More than 160 people died in the places he scoped out while posing as an immigration consultant in India between 2007 and 2008.

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Mr. Headley said that months before the attacks, he met close associates in Pakistan - including "Major Iqbal," a Pakistani spy working with Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"He didn't give me the list, but he told me the Chabad House [a Jewish centre]was to be added to whatever list there was because it was a front office for the Mossad," Mr. Headley said, referring to Israel's intelligence agency.

Mr. Headley said his Lashkar-e-Taiba handler gave him the final list. It included the second floor of the Taj hotel, because Indian defence contractors were understood to meet in the conference rooms there.

Mr. Headley testified other Mumbai targets were settled on mostly by happenstance. The central train station was initially considered as a possible exit for the gunmen, but then it became a target after planners settled on the suicidal "stronghold option" where the attackers were told to fight to the death.

The Oberoi hotel and Leopold café were simply targets of opportunity, picked at random during visits,

Mr. Headley struck a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors after his 2009 arrest in Chicago. He is now giving evidence against his former best friend and schoolmate, Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian who stands accused of lending support to Mr. Headley.

It's alleged that Mr. Rana, who operates a Chicago immigration consultancy, provided false documents to Mr. Headley to help him sneak into India to conduct terrorist surveillance.

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Three years ago, when Mr. Headley was deeply involved in planning the attacks in South Asia, he tried to spare Mr. Rana's life.

"I asked [a mutual friend]to advise Dr. Rana not to go to India [in November, 2008]" Mr. Headley testified. "So that he wouldn't be caught in some … situation."

The trial continues.

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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