A Chicago judge yesterday sentenced David Coleman Headley, a Chicago resident who helped orchestrate the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, in which over 170 people were killed, including six Americans, to 35 years in prison.
Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to conducting surveillance on a number of targets in Mumbai between 2006 and 2008 on behalf of the Pakistan-based terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT). The targets included the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the Taj Mahal and Oberoi-Trident hotels, the Leopold Café, and the Nariman House, the Mumbai headquarters of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.
Indian news sources reported that Headley posed as a Jew during a July 2008 visit to the Nariman House, where suspected members of LeT tortured and killed six people during the terrorist attacks four months later. LeT reportedly also tasked Headley with gathering details of Jewish centers across India. In March 2009, four months after the Mumbai attacks, Headley allegedly conducted additional reconnaissance of Chabad Houses in several cities in India, which included other Jewish centers in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Pune and Pushkar.
Headley was also charged with planning attacks with LeT targeting the Danish newspaper that had printed cartoons depicting Muhammad.Since 2000 several other American citizens have been linked to LeT, which embraces an anti-Western ideology that demonizes the United States, Israel and India.
Although Headley faced life in prison, the judge listened to prosecutors’ recommendations that he receive a lighter sentence due to his extensive cooperation in other terrorism trials. His cooperation was most visibly demonstrated in the trial of his former friend, Tahawwur Rana, who was convicted in June 2011 of assisting Headley in planning the attack in Denmark and for providing material support to LeT. Rana was sentenced to 14 years in prison on January 17.
India has expressed disappointment in the lenient sentencing, saying that “all those involved… should receive death,” and pledging to continue to seek Headley’s extradition.