Three weeks before the start of perhaps the most significant terrorism trial ever in Chicago, federal prosecutors unsealed charges Monday against four additional defendants for allegedly plotting the 2008 terrorist attacks in India that killed more than 160 people.
The four — all considered fugitives — have alleged links to Lashkar e Tayyiba, a Pakistani-based terrorist group, and the prosecution's key witness has linked one of them to Pakistan's intelligence service.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana faces a federal trial May 16 on charges he provided support to members of Lashkar as they planned the Mumbai attacks and a plot on a Denmark newspaper that wasn't carried out.
Among the new defendants is a Pakistani identified only by his alias of "Major Iqbal", who was charged with planning and funding terrorist attacks carried out by Lashkar.
The government has only linked Iqbal to Lashkar.
David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen who pleaded guilty to conducting surveillance in advance of the Mumbai attacks and is expected to be the prosecution's star witness at trial, has identified Iqbal as a member of the country's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, according to court records.
"I told (Rana) … about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI," according to an excerpt from Headley's grand jury testimony in a recent court ruling. "I even told him some of the espionage stories that Major Iqbal had told me. I told (Rana) about my assignment to conduct surveillance in Mumbai."
Rana allegedly supported Headley by providing money and cover — as a representative of his immigration business — during his five trips to Mumbai to conduct surveillance from fall 2006 to mid-2008. A team of gunmen carried out coordinated attacks that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans, in Mumbai in November 2008.
But Rana's lawyer, Charles Swift, said Monday his client denies the charges.