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Pakistan’s ISI suspected in terrorism plan

In a confidential Indian interrogation report, David Headley speaks of cooperation with individuals in the Pakistani Intelligence Service in planning an attack against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

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A high ranking officer in the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency was involved in planning a major terrorist attack against the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper, according to David Headley, a Pakistani-American who has admitted planning the terrorist attack in Mumbai in India in 2008.

Headley, who is currently in prison in Chicago, has further admitted that when he was arrested in November 2008 he was planning a new attack – this time against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper as a result of its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Headley was interrogated last summer by Indian intelligence officers. In a more than 100-page report that Politiken has obtained, Headley speaks in detail about a long list of meetings with Pakistani intelligence officers.

Headley worked, among others, for the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar e-Taiba which Headley says is closely linked to the Pakistani ISI.

“Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan controls most of the important people in Lashkar e-Taiba,” Headley is quoted as saying in the report.

Headley describes how in the autumn of 2008 he discussed the terrorist attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper with an ISI officer called Major Iqbal. According to Headley the same man also played a leading role in planning the terrorist attack in Mumbai as well as paying for several of Headley’s trips.

According to the report, Major Iqbal is also said to have given Headley the Sony Ericsson mobile telephone with an inbuilt camera that Headley later used to take pictures in Denmark of a variety of locations, including the Jyllands-Posten buildings

There have previously been allegations that the ISI knew of the plans to attack Mumbai where more than 160 people lost their lives. According to Headley, the same was true of plans to attack Jyllands-Posten.

The ISI has often been accused of cooperating with various terrorist organisations, while at the same time Pakistan is allied with the United States and Denmark in the war on terrorism. The discussion about Pakistan’s possible duplicity has further been fuelled following the discovery that the al Qaeda Leader Osama bin Laden had been living next to a major military establishment in Pakistan for several years.

The ISI’s role in the war against terrorism will again take centre court on Monday when the case against David Headley’s co-defendant Tahawwur Rana begins in Chicago.

Headley is said to have worked closely with Rana, who is also of Pakistani descent and on remand while awaiting trial in Chicago. Unlike Headley, who has admitted all charges against him, Tahawwur Rana has denied the charges.

In an official declaration, the Indian authorities have also said they suspect Major Iqbal of being a Pakistani intelligence officer. Iqbal has also been indicted in Chicago but is currently believed to be at liberty in Pakistan.

While the American indictment also alleges that Major Iqbal has been in close contact with both David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, it does not, however, mention Iqbal’s alleged connection to the Pakistani ISI.

The Swedish terrorism researcher Magnus Rantorp believes the case is a further issue in the strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

“There is no reason to believe that Headley has dreamt up the things he has been talking about. And there have previously been examples of individuals in the ISI being double agents. The big question is whether Headley’s plans were known by the ISI leadership, or just individuals in the service. Now we have a named person, Major Iqbal, indicted in the United States, and Pakistan should extradite him to face charges,” Rantorp says.

Politiken has asked for comment on the reports that the ISI knew of terrorism plans against Jyllands-Posten from both Justice Minister Lars Barfoed (Cons) and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) Chief Jakob Scharf. Neither have wished to comment.

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The Danish People’s Party Spokesman Søren Espersen says the new information is “extremely alarming” in a reaction mirrored by the Social Democratic Foreign Policy Spokesman and former Foreign Minister Mogens Lykketoft.

“If this is true, then it is shocking. It resembles a repeat of the pattern we have seen of how people in the ISI have also cooperated with the Taleban, and that someone must have known that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan.

Former Social Liberal Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen says the allegations can harm relations with Pakistan.

“This is a very serious allegation that can give major problems for Pakistani relations with several countries. If Pakistan’s ISI has been aware of this without reacting, it runs contrary to all rules as to how states behave towards each other,” Helveg Petersen says.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

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