David Coleman Headley, one of the prime accused in the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, told a special Mumbai court on Thursday that Ishrat Jehan, the 19-year-old girl who was killed in an alleged ‘fake encounter’ in 2004, was affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
While deposing before the court via video link from an undisclosed spot in the United States, Headley said that there was a women’s wing in the LeT.
Deposing before the court, Headley claimed that the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi told him about a botched up operation of Muzammil in India.
“The operation was about shooting the police at some naka. One woman LeT named Ishrat Jehan was involved. Muzammil Bhatt was the head of our group before Sajid Mir,” he told the court. He, however, denied the involvement of any woman suicide bomber in the LeT but later named Ishrat Jehan as an LeT operative.
Early on the morning of 15 June 2004, Ishrat Jehan, Javed Sheikh, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana were shot dead on the road leading to the Kotarpur waterworks on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The encounter was carried out allegedly by a team led by DIG DG Vanjara, who was later jailed for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter.
The police alleged that Ishrat and her associates were Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives involved in a plot to assassinate the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. Later, an investigation was launched into the allegations that Ishrat was killed in a fake encounter. After a long investigation, in 2009, an Ahmedabad Metropolitan court ruled that the encounter was staged.
Shamima Kausar, mother of Ishrat Jahan says “He had said the same thing before as well and I had replied even then. There were reports of Headley having said the same thing in his statement to the NIA that later denied it. “Has any new evidence come up now? Does he have anything to back what he is saying or is it the same old statement spouted out again,” questions Kausar. “Jo sach tha woh court mein aa gaya hain. Abhi yeb sirf bade log apna naam bachane ki koshish kar rahein hain (The facts of the case have been proved in the courts. This is just a ploy by those guilty who are powerful to try and salvage their names that have been besmirched),” said Kausar.
In a police encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, the Ahmedabad crime branch killed Ishrat – a college student in western Maharashtra’s Mumbra — and three others with authorities claiming she was on a mission to kill then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. In 2009 the Gujarat high court ordered an inquiry into the incident. Probes by the Central Bureau of Investigation and a special investigation team found no connection between the dead and LeT.