Two Chicago men accused of planning an attack on a Danish newspaper knew beforehand about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, last year that killed nearly 170 people, federal investigators said Monday.
In a conversation that investigators said they secretly recorded on a long car ride, U.S. authorities said the two men chatted about how they had known the terrorism rampage was about to begin in which 10 gunmen ran between hotels and other public places shooting people.
During the ride, U.S. officials said, Tahawwur Rana asked David Coleman Headley to pass along congratulations to the planner of the attack, a leader of the militant Pakistani organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.
“In the world, if there had been . . . a medal for command, top class,” Rana is alleged to have said.
A transcript of the conversation was released Monday in the federal case accusing Rana and Headley of links to terrorism plots in Copenhagen, Mumbai and elsewhere.
Headley is accused of scouting attack locations and Rana, the owner of a Chicago immigration consulting business, is under investigation for possibly financing his travels, sources have said.
The new court filing, submitted in an effort to keep Rana in custody, accuses him of being in much closer contact with others linked to the plots than previously alleged.
Federal authorities said Headley traveled at least five times to India at Lashkar-e-Taiba’s direction. They said he told people he was a representative of an immigration business, and that he took video of target sites and scouted the best locations for the Mumbai attack team to make its landing.
Headley and Rana were charged in October with conspiring to attack the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten over its publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that sparked riots in the Muslim world.
Authorities said Headley traveled to Denmark to scout an attack, visited the newspaper and told employees there he was working for an immigration business.
In their written bid to keep Rana behind bars, prosecutors said he was in Dubai speaking with retired military officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed days before the Mumbai assault. Syed, a man Rana reportedly knows as “Pasha,” also is charged in the newspaper plot.
Sources said investigators used a bug in a car in September to record Headley and Rana discussing the Dubai meeting. According to the court filing, Headley recalled how Rana was told by Syed that the attacks were about to happen.
The court filing also said that the U.S. government thinks a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who “coordinated the attacks” in Mumbai was Headley’s handler.
The government also thinks the operative is one of the people who can be heard on intercepts giving real-time guidance to the 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen on how to continue their three-day assault.
In court documents, the Justice Department has identified the operative as “LeT Member A,” but U.S. and Pakistani officials think he goes by the name Sajid Mir, and that he is Lashkar-e-Taiba’s head of international operations -- or attacks outside of Pakistan.
One senior Pakistani official said Pakistani authorities were still trying to determine Mir’s identity, and that they think he was a ranking member of the Pakistani army until several years ago.
Pakistani authorities think Headley, Rana and Mir attended the same military high school, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
The FBI arrested Headley, 49, on Oct. 3 as he was trying to board a flight that would have taken him to Pakistan. Authorities said he was traveling to visit his contacts about the newspaper attack.
The Pakistani American, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, has appeared in court in public once.
Rana, 48, was taken into custody Oct. 18, the same day as a raid on his immigration business and on a meat processing plant that has ties to him.