In a significant claim, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley on Thursday said that Ishrat Jahan—who was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004 in Gujarat—was actually a suicide bomber of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit.
The disclosure is likely to ignite a fresh row around the controversial encounter.
Testifying via video-link from the US, Headley spilled the beans on the 19-year-old Mumbra girl and picked up her name when quizzed by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam about a "botched up operation" mentioned to him (Headley) by LeT commander Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi.
Headley told the court that Lakhvi had mentioned to him about a "botched-up operation" conducted in India by another LeT operative Muzammil Butt where a female member of the terror outfit was killed.
Prodded by Nikam to elaborate on the operation and the members involved in it, Headley said, "(I was told) It was a shootout with police in which a (female) suicide bomber was killed."
To which the prosecutor prompted three names of which Headley picked up Jahan before telling the court that "there is a female wing in LeT and one Abu Aiman's mother headed it."
Four persons—Ishrat Jahan, Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter with Gujarat Police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.
The city crime branch had then said that those killed in the encounters were LeT terrorists and had landed in Gujarat to kill then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The CBI, which took over probe from the Gujarat High Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), had filed charge sheet in August 2013 saying that the encounter was fake and executed in the joint operation by the city crime branch and Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB).
In further disclosures, the 55-year-old, who recently turned approver in the 26/11 case, also told the court that that LeT operative Muzammil Butt was the head of his (Headley's) group before Sajid Mir.
He told the court that a person, whom he identified as Abu Dujuna introduced him to Muzammil.
Headley said that he and Muzammil had once visited Kashmir to fight against the Indian troops.
Earlier in the day, Headley exposed how ISI and LeT majorly funded terror operations in India and financed him from time to time and that Pakistan native Tahawwur Rana visited Mumbai before the terror strikes in November 2008, which left 166 people dead and 309 injured.
The LeT operative also said that RBI had turned down his request to open a bank account for their office in India.
Giving details of his funding, Headley said, "Before coming to India in September 2006, he received $25,000 from ISI's Major Iqbal."
"I also got 40,000 in Pakistani currency from LeT operative Sajid Mir between April and June 2008," he told the court, adding that Major Iqbal used to regularly send him money in instalments.
Also, Major Iqbal gave me counterfeit Indian currency once or twice in 2008, he said. Besides Abdul Rehman Pasha, also from ISI, gave me Rs 80,000, Headley said.
"Tahawur Rana (Headley's associate and a Pakistani native who operated a Chicago-based immigration business) used to send me money from the US in September 2006 when I came to India to do intelligence work on instructions of LeT," he told the court.
He also said that "it was my idea to open an office in India. It was a part of my cover (as an immigration consultant). I had discussed about this with Major Iqbal and Sajid Mir and they both agreed to it."
"I also told Rana that Major Iqbal had asked me to do intelligence work in India. Iqbal told me that if Rana was reluctant to be associated with this (Headley's India operations) then he (Headley) should appeal to his (Rana's) sense of patriotism towards Pakistan," he testified.
"But Rana was not reluctant and he agreed readily for me to go to India," Headley said. Headley also revealed that Rana had visited Mumbai before the terror attacks.
"I advised Rana to leave India before the attacks as I was afraid that he would be in danger," he told the court.
Headley also disclosed that Rana had asked Raymond Sanders (who ran an immigrant law centre in Chicago) to submit an application to the RBI to open a bank account for their office in India.
The deposition of Headley could not take place yesterday due to a technical snag in the video conference in the US.