Mumbai: A former Pakistan Army major, who has joined the ranks of militant outfit Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), is emerging as one of the masterminds of the Mumbai carnage.
Sources claim that he was in direct touch with arrested US terror suspect David Coleman Headley.
The former armyman, identified as Sajid Mir, has turned out to be Headley’s handler in Pakistan, and was asking the American to learn to pray like Jews, so that he could conduct a recce of the Jewish Centre — Nariman House — in Mumbai and the premises of a newspaper office in Denmark, official sources said here today.
Sources said Mir has been arrested in Pakistan, but this could not be independently verified.
The 48-year-old American-born Headley was arrested by FBI sleuths at a Chicago airport in October this year for allegedly plotting to carry out terror strikes in India and Denmark. Headley had told his investigators that he had learnt to pray like Jews at the insistence of Mir, who is now emerging as one of the masterminds of the terror strikes in Mumbai last November, in which 166 people were killed.
Mir, according to the sources, asked Headley to learn to pray like Jews as this could help him target Flemming Rose — a cartoonist of a Danish newspaper — besides helping him conduct a recce of Nariman House, a place which was attacked by LeT terrorists on November 26.
Headley, according to the dossier of the FBI shared with Indian security agencies, said that he was conducting a surveillance of the synagogue at the direction of Mir as he was under the wrong belief that the cartoonist of the Denmark newspaper was Jewish.
However, the practice of learning the Jewish way of praying was utilised in Nariman House, visited by Headley in the first half of last year, while posing as a Jew.
Six of the occupants, including Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his five-month-pregnant wife Rivka, were killed by LeT militants. The rabbi’s two-year-old son, Moshe, was saved by his nanny Sandra Samuel.
Statements of some of the witnesses who had either seen or accompanied Headley, some of whom had taken him on motorcycle to Nariman House, also known as Chabad House, have been recorded. According to sources, a witnesses, whose statement was recorded by investigators, said that Headley interacted with the inmates for a long time while posing as a Jew.
According to a statement made by another witness, Headley had taken a round with him around the area to ascertain the entry and exit points of Nariman House.
The attack by Lashkar terrorists last year in the five-storeyed house, which can be approached only through the narrow by-lanes of Colaba, had left security agencies without any doubt that a proper recce had been conducted before the srike.