Journalism in the Public Interest

Four Alleged Masterminds of 2008 Mumbai Attacks Are Indicted in Chicago

Four alleged masterminds of the Mumbai attacks have been indicted in a U.S. federal court, including two who have been linked to Pakistan’s government, a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.


(Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Federal prosecutors in Chicago have indicted four alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks including two men who, as ProPublica has reported in recent months, have been linked by U.S. investigators and foreign court documents to Pakistan’s security forces.

The indictment filed Monday never mentions the Pakistani security forces or their alleged role in the attacks. But it represents a major development in a secretive, diplomatically sensitive prosecution set for trial next month, because Pakistan is considered a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism. Prosecutors charged the four Pakistanis with playing lead roles in the attacks by the Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group that killed 166 people, six of them Americans. Three of the four are believed to be at large.

The indictment identifies a man known only as Major Iqbal as one of the masterminds who directed and funded months of reconnaissance in Mumbai by David Coleman Headley, a mysterious Pakistani-American businessman who was once an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Headley was arrested in October 2009 and is cooperating with U.S. and Indian officials.

The indictment describes Major Iqbal as “a resident of Pakistan who participated in planning and funding attacks by Lashkar.” But as ProPublica has reported, U.S. and Indian anti-terror officials and Indian court documents allege that Iqbal was a serving officer in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. He allegedly acted as Headley’s main handler, one of at least three ISI officers who are suspected of being involved in recruiting, training and directing Headley in terrorist activities, according to U.S. and Indian investigators and Indian court documents.

The other significant figure indicted Monday is a longtime Lashkar chief named Sajid Mir, who also is accused of serving as Headley’s handler. Mir remains at large, according to investigators, despite the fact that he allegedly was a key plotter in the Mumbai attacks. His voice was caught on tape directing the slaughter by telephone from a Pakistani safe house, according to officials and documents.

In 2007 Mir was convicted of terrorism in absentia by French authorities, who accused him of being an officer of the Pakistani military and possibly the ISI. Some Western anti-terror officials believe Mir spent time in the Pakistani security forces, while others say he was close to the ISI but do not believe he was a serving officer.

The other two suspects charged Monday are suspected Lashkar chiefs whose voices were also recorded directing the 10 gunmen who carried out the three-day attack. Suspect Abu Qahafa is accused of overseeing the training of the attack team. Suspect Mazhar Iqbal, alias Abu al-Qama, is the only one of the four known to be in custody. Pakistani authorities arrested him in early 2009 and charged him and six others in the Mumbai attacks, but that trial has apparently stalled.

All four suspects were charged Monday with six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India as well as the material support of terrorism and conspiracy to murder. Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal were also charged with conspiracy to bomb public places in India, and Mir has been charged with directing a plot that involved Headley in Denmark. The four could face the death sentence or life in prison.

U.S. Justice Department spokesmen in Washington and Chicago declined to comment on the indictments.

A fifth defendant, who was charged earlier in the case, is in U.S. custody. Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago-based businessman, allegedly assisted Headley’s reconnaissance in India and Denmark. Rana was arrested with Headley in 2009 and is set to go on trial in Chicago in May.

Why was the US Govt hiding these facts for so long?

Why is the US Govt always sides with a terrorist org like ISI?

How long will the US Govt keep abetting the ISI terroism?

Its incredible that US’s strategic partner, friend, most favoured non NATO partner and frontline alley in the war on terror is a state sponsor of terror. Congratulations you have made the world safer.

Why aren’t these people being extradited to India and tried there?  It seems inappropriate to deny India the first round of prosecutions.

Is it because doing so would anger Pakistan?

Shocking but not so shocking that ISI along with LeT conducted this attack in India. US and India should wake up and stop funding for fight for terrorism. India need to act bolder than before and bring them to justice ASAP.

One might wonder why this is being prosecuted in the US rather than India.  You might also ask why the former US informer who did the majority of planning and intelligence gathering for the crime is now fully cooperating with the US authorities.  You might ask why we are targeting mysterious members of the ISI when we have 2 key players who are American. 

This story has the same feel as other preemptive prosecutions of Muslims in the US who were set up to appear to commit crimes by aggressive agent provocateurs who planned and managed the entire event.  Of course, in this country, they give the hapless targets fake weapons and bombs, but in India they went with the real thing.  Otherwise no one would believe them.

Every one condemns Mumbai attacks but Mumbai is not located in USA——This seems to be a move to put pressure on Pakistan to accept such demands of US administration which it can not accept.Unfortunately american people are very lees informed what is happening in this part of world.The killing of innocent people in US drone attacks in Pakistan tribal areas have proved counter productive even if seen from american angle of seeing things or events.Pakistan has been a long time ally of USA but it never proved to be a trustworthy friend.There may no doubt in person mind that America has lost Afghan War and it is high time that Obama tell the truth to its people the exact situation in Afghanistan.Pakistan or its spy agency ISI can not win Afghan war for USA and America must not punish Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan.Amercan people must bear in mind that the same ISI was the darling of US policy makers during Afghan war but now they are accusing every day.One thing more—ISI is after all pakistan,spy agency and it has to protect pakistan vital interests in the region .

One might wonder what the US is trying to cover up.  You might consider that we are currently bombing Pakistan on a regular basis so I don’t think we are such great friends for them. 
In fact, the only complicity the US ever covers up is it’s own.  Why would this time be any different?  How convenient would it be to engineer a serious crime in India with the support of renegade Pakistani elements, then insinuate that the ISI is responsible.  To get away with it, the investigation would have to be controlled and the key witnesses sequestered. 
With regard to the Mossad, they are even more vicious cold blooded killers than the ISI.  With friends like that, who needs enemies?

US administration is befooling its people as regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan.Pakistan is a responsible country.USA has lost war in Afghanistan but it is not telling truth to its people.Pakistan or ISI can not win war for America.Visit for latest news on Afghanistan and world.

It is fortunate that they are being indicted in the US as there is now a possibility that they could be eventually brought to justice. There would never be any justice provided in India to their own citizens who were slaughtered by this Pakistani military-terrorism operation. The sole surviving captured terrorist remains well fed and alive in India despite being convicted for his crimes, as are many other captured and convicted Muslim terrorists over there.

All the conspiratorial pro-Pakistan comments here only highlight the delusional mindset of the supporters of this out-of-control outlaw army. So-called “officers” of this rogue military were intimately involved in butchering unarmed civilians in a major metropolis in the 21st century, just as they did some 40 years ago during the genocide in Bangladesh, and their supporters question US involvement in seeking justice? Try the fact that US citizens were targeted and killed by ISI officers. Or that this so-called ally has been taking billions in dollars from the US while stabbing it in the back for the past decade. Pakistan has zero credibility. The only surprise is that General Pasha, the current head of the ISI, and General Kayani, the current military dictator and previous ISI chief, were not named in these indictments. Perhaps they have been secretly indicted for their role in directing state-sponsored terrorism?

Jalmmer osmth

May 23, 2011, 4:28 p.m.

What exactly is this public enterprise that this informant for the DEA operates?

Pakistan was the most trusted friend of America and West when it was fighting against Soviet Union in Afghanistan.Osama Bin Laden was also a hero and great warrior in the eyes of the USA and West.Please think of your own past before accusing Pakistan.People of Pakistan are thinking to revisit its foreign policy as USA deals with friends and allies like enemies.USA killed innocent people in Iraq but did not find weapons of mass destruction.If Osam is dead as USA claims,then it should immediately leave Afghanistan.

Also visit for latest news and views

Not ewevryone on Pakistan contributes to violence and cowardly terrorism, OBL was recruited by the CIA tifight the USSR in Afghanistan, the us gave them wepons and money and access to its resources in the USA. OBL was then a mercenary for pay and turned his hero into an enemy of his former employ. Killing innocent people 911 that only makes an otherwise legitimate cause, worse.
  Weaopons of mass destruction were everywhere in Iraq, they were used in the North against Iraqi citisens and in the war with Iran by nerve agents. The Irqi people tried and convicted Saddam.
  The USA has many problems too as an open society those who wish to do harm prey upon soft targets. Any religion and any race can be found in the USA, when someone claims to be better by religion or race then oit becomes like six ways from no where against them.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Pakistan’s Terror Connections

The Mumbai terror attacks have revealed evidence of the extent of the ties of Pakistani intelligence to terrorist groups and the flaws in the U.S fight against Pakistan-based terror.

Get Updates

Our Hottest Stories