NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian officials said on Tuesday they were collecting evidence to charge a Chicago man with helping plan last year’s militant attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people and reignited tensions with Pakistan.
The move comes after a team of U.S. federal investigators shared evidence with India this week against David Headley, an American national previously accused of plotting to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Headley was arrested in the United States two months ago. U.S. prosecutors charged him on Monday with scouting targets for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the November 2008 Mumbai rampage on hotels and a Jewish center.
But Indian officials said they would prefer Headley be punished in India, and indicting him was the first step toward seeking his extradition for an Indian trial. India and the United States have an extradition treaty.
The top civil servant in India’s home ministry said U.S. federal investigators had shared evidence and some details from Headley’s interrogation, but more evidence was needed before the Pakistani-born Chicago man could be charged in Indian courts.
India has charged 38 people in the Mumbai attacks, including the lone surviving suspected gunman. A Mumbai court is hearing the case. Most of those charged are thought to be in Pakistan.
Headley, 49, traveled to Mumbai five times between September 2006 and July 2008, taking pictures and video of some places hit in the attacks as well as the port where the attackers landed by boat, according to U.S. court documents.
Headley traveled to Pakistan to turn over the results of his surveillance and, in early 2008, he took boat trips into the Mumbai harbor at the direction of his Lashkar contacts, U.S. court documents said.
In November 2008, 10 attackers launched their assault on various targets in Mumbai, including the city’s main train station, two luxury hotels and a Jewish center.
Nine attackers were killed. One was captured alive and is now in a Mumbai jail, facing trial.
India turned in evidence against what it said were plotters of the attack to help a separate Pakistani investigation into the raid. But a trial of seven Pakistanis accused of involvement is pending, straining India-Pakistan relations.
Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee