India says it’s pursuing Headley extradition (Lead)

November 1st, 2010 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, Nov 1 (IANS) Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit, India Monday said it was still pursuing the possible extradition of American terrorist David Coleman Headley who has confessed his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

“(Extradition) is an option and we will continue to pursue that option,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here.

The minister was replying to a question about Headley, in a US prison since October 2009 after his arrest on charges of helping the LeT in its terror strikes including the Nov 26, 2008 attack that killed 166 people.

The Pakistani-born terror suspect has pleaded guilty to scouting for locations in India for terror attacks. He made many trips to India on his US passport. However, his extradition to India may be impossible because he entered into a plea bargain with a US court after his confessions.

Intelligence linked to his India visits before and after the 26/11 attack have emerged as contentious issues between the two countries even as Indian investigators were given access to Headley for questioning in June this year.

The issue erupted recently amid reports that US intelligence agencies had not shared with their Indian counterparts details of Headley’s militant links after receiving complaints by the wives of the Pakistani-American terrorist that he had links with the LeT.

However, Chidambaram underplayed the issue even as he said the US had not mentioned Headley in its intelligence sharing with India until a year after the 2008 Mumbai attack.

“The Headley issue has been blown out of proportion. The US did share us with the information. Intelligence was shared prior to 26/11 (Mumbai attack). Intelligence was shared after 26/11… But no name was mentioned (in that intelligence),” Chidambaram told reporters here.

He said the US had been continuously sharing intelligence inputs with India even though the name of Headley was not given until October 2009.

“The intelligence sharing is extremely good. The name of Headley was shared in October 2009 (almost a year after the 26/11 attack),” the home minister said.

He said the two governments were working on a terror cooperation initiative. “I am told the two governments are working on a new terror cooperation initiative. The ministry of home affairs (of India) supports cooperation in counter-terrorism measures.”

There has been controversy in the media in recent times about intelligence-sharing between the two countries.

Chidambaram said the US authorities were reviewing what “they knew about David Headley and when they knew about David Headley vis-a-vis 26/11.

“Let’s wait for the review to be completed,” he said, expressing confidence that the review report would be shared with India.

Earlier, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai had ratcheted up the contentious issue days ahead of Obama’s trip who arrives in Mumbai Saturday for his four-day stay in India.

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