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Ex-Businessman Facing Murder Charges in Mumbai Terror Attack

The Associated Press

A former businessman imprisoned for aiding terrorist groups was arrested in the United States in June 2020 to face murder charges in India over the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed more than 160 people, U.S. prosecutors said. 

Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian, has been charged in India with conspiring to plot and carry out the deadly attacks that are sometimes referred to as India’s 9/11.

Rana, 59, was convicted nine years ago of a terrorist charge connected to the group behind the Mumbai slayings, though U.S. prosecutors failed to prove he directly supported the four-day rampage. 

Rana was serving a 14-year sentence when he was granted early release from a Los Angeles federal prison in June 2020 because of poor health and a bout of coronavirus. He never got out of prison before being arrested to face extradition to India, prosecutors said.

He has been charged with murder and murder conspiracy in India, according to court documents. 

Rana was convicted in Chicago in 2011 of providing material support to the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which planned the India attack, and for supporting a plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the prophet are prohibited in Islam. The plot was never carried out.

Jurors cleared Rana of a more serious charge of providing support for the attacks in Mumbai, India’s largest city, that killed 166, injured nearly 240 and caused U.S. $1.5 billion in damage.

Rana’s lawyer said at trial that his client had been duped by his high school buddy David Coleman Headley, an admitted terrorist who plotted the Mumbai attacks. The defense called Headley, the government’s chief witness who testified to avoid the death penalty, a habitual liar and manipulator.

Rana was accused of allowing Headley to open a branch of his Chicago-based immigration law business in Mumbai as a cover story and to travel as a representative of the company in Denmark. 

Prosecutors said Rana knew Headley had trained as a terrorist. Headley shared information of the scouting missions he conducted in Mumbai and of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where gunmen later slaughtered dozens of people.

Headley, who was born in the U.S. to a Pakistani father and American mother, said his hatred of India dated to his childhood when his school in Pakistan was bombed by Indian military planes during a war between the countries in 1971.

Headley did not take part in the Mumbai attacks but told Rana months later that he was “even with the Indians now,” according to a court document. Rana said they deserved it. 

Headley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, he can’t be extradited to India.

Only one of the 10 Mumbai terrorists survived the attack and went on trial. He was convicted, sentenced to death in India and hanged.

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