S charges Ilyas Kashmiri in Danish newspaper plot

CHICAGO: A leader of a Pakistani militant group was charged on Thursday with helping to plot a revenge attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad which angered many Muslims.

The US indictment of Ilyas Kashmiri, a leader of the group Harakatul Jihad Islami, accuses him of helping to plot an attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Kashmiri was described in court documents as being in regular contact with leaders of al Qaeda.

Also formally charged was Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, 48, and Abdur Rehman, a retired Pakistani Army major, both previously named in the investigation.

Court documents filed on Thursday also contained additional details about the planning for a deadly November 2008 assault on Mumbai.

David Headley, a 49-year-old American with Pakistani roots, has been charged by US authorities with conducting several surveillance trips to Denmark and to Mumbai ahead of the planned attacks.

Headley passed his information on to “handlers” from another militant Pakistani group, Lashkar-i-Taiba, which is blamed for the three-day Mumbai assault that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans, according to court documents.

Headley has been cooperating with US authorities since his arrest in October.

Headley’s Lashkar handlers gave him $25,000 to set up an office in Mumbai to cover his surveillance activities and later $4,500 more to cover expenses, the documents said. He was also trained to use a GPS device to provide specific coordinates to the Mumbai attackers and shown a scale model of the Taj Mahal hotel to aid in the planning.

The plot against the Danish newspaper never came off. The newspaper set off a firestorm in the Muslim world when it published the cartoons in 2005.

Last year, Headley’s Lashkar handler, who is not named in the documents, tried to call off an attack on the newspaper, telling Headley there was too much pressure on the group following the Mumbai assault, which strained India-Pakistan relations.

But Kashmiri met with Headley and urged him to go ahead, suggesting he enlist Kashmiri’s contacts in Europe and use a truck bomb in the attack, the documents said.

Rana was accused of using his immigration business as a cover for Headley’s scouting trips and for the phony offices to be set up in Mumbai and Delhi. Previous government filings have said other Indian targets were being considered by the alleged plotters.

Rana and Headley had numerous conversations, recorded by US agents, about the Denmark plot and Mumbai attacks, prosecutors have said.

A lawyer for Rana said his client was “duped” by Headley and had no prior knowledge of the Mumbai attacks. He has denied the charges.

Kashmiri, who is believed to reside in the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan, was charged with conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark and providing material support to the plot. Rehman, who is also believed to be in Pakistan, was similarly charged.

Rana, who has been denied bond and is being held, was charged with three counts of providing material support to terrorism or a terrorist organization, in regard to both the Mumbai and Danish plots.

Rana faces life in prison, and Headley, who has pleaded not guilty but may change his plea, could face the death penalty.

Rana’s attorney could not immediately be reached.

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