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Defendant in Mumbai attack trial spoke to FBI
June 6, 2011 / 7:38 PM / 6 years ago

Defendant in Mumbai attack trial spoke to FBI

<p>The Taj Mahal hotel is seen engulfed in smoke during a gun battle in Mumbai November 29, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>

CHICAGO (Reuters) - In an interview with U.S. law enforcement agents, the Pakistani-born businessman charged with supporting the 2008 Islamic militant attack on Mumbai said his accused co-conspirator David Headley was full of “loose talk.”

“To this very day I don’t know what he did,” Tahawwur Rana told FBI agents during a six-hour tape-recorded interview with FBI agents a year after the raids that killed 164 people.

Rana is a 50-year-old Canadian citizen charged with providing support and his Chicago-based immigration business as a cover story while Headley scouted targets in India for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and an officer with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, or ISI.

Segments of the FBI’s October 18, 2009, interview with a disheveled Rana after his arrest were shown to jurors on Monday by prosecutors as both sides wrapped up their cases on the eighth day of the trial. Final statements were scheduled for Tuesday.

“He makes these stories and tells them,” Rana told the FBI about Headley. “He talks hours and hours. Loose talk, bad talk.”

The defense has argued Rana was unaware of the attack plots and that Headley, an American who is a former U.S. drug informer and has a Pakistani father, was lying to justify his plea deal.

Headley, 50, testified for parts of five days as part of a plea deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.

The FBI agent asked Rana in the 2009 interview to focus on what Headley was doing with the ISI -- an element in the trial being closely watched by Pakistan nemesis India.

The extent of Pakistani government involvement in the Mumbai attack is also important to U.S.-Pakistan ties strained by last month’s U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

In the interview with the FBI, Rana said his old high school friend Headley talked to him at length about his contacts with ISI officer Major Iqbal, members of Lashkar, and al Qaeda linked Islamic militant Ilyas Kashmiri.

There were reports from Pakistan over the weekend that Kashmiri had been killed by a U.S. drone strike, though American officials were skeptical Kashmiri was dead.

Rana told the FBI he had spoken on the telephone with Major Iqbal about the two going into the meat business together. One of Rana’s many struggling ventures is a goat farm that adheres to strict Muslim slaughtering standards.

Rana could face life in prison if convicted of aiding the planners of the Mumbai attack, providing support to Lashkar, and aiding a plot to storm a Danish newspaper and behead its staff to avenge cartoons it published of the Prophet Mohammed which inflamed many Muslims.

Rana’s lawyers presented two witnesses -- a Canadian lawyer who testified about working for Rana’s First World Immigration business in the 1990s aimed at expanding in India, and a computer forensics expert who testified about the lack of extensive Internet searches concerning the plots performed on Rana’s home and office computers.

Edited by Jerry Norton

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