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Chicago Suspect Front-Page News In India

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This latest development in the Mumbai case has added another layer of intrigue to an already complicated story. NPR's Philip Reeves covered the attacks in Mumbai. And he joins us now from the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Good morning.

PHILIP REEVES: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: How is this news being received in India?

REEVES: It's front page news. Stories about Headley's alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks have actually been circulating in India and beyond for a few weeks now. But now that these allegations, you know, have taken a concrete form - you know, as charges spelled out in court documents - there's a lot of interest. And the media's giving a fair bit of attention today to the details about how Headley stayed in the Taj Mahal Hotel, twice apparently, how he changed his name a couple of years ago from Daood Gilani so that he would be seen in India as an American and not as a Pakistani Muslim.

Headley's already charged with plotting to attack a Danish newspaper also. And a Pakistani retired military officer is also charged over that. Some papers here are highlighting this as it plays into their belief that the Pakistani security establishment's playing a role in all this.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk a little bit more about David Headley. As you say, he changed his name just a few years ago. He was born to a father who was of the Pakistan's elite. His mother was a socialite from Philadelphia. He could, as you say, pass easily for an American. Has it changed how Indians view the actual assault?

REEVES: Well, he was educated in military prep school in Pakistan. As you say, his father was Pakistani, a diplomat, so that does make him part of the Pakistani elite. And he has allegedly worked with and even trained with the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

But the fact that he's a U.S. citizen, I think, is - well, it's being received with a bit of a jolt here, just because it's a little unexpected. The focus in this whole affair has tended here to be on Pakistan and its direct involvement. And here is a development which is coming from the left field, as it were.

I also suspect people will be struck by the fact that Headley's visits to India, you know, were spread over several years. All of this reinforces the notion that this was a very carefully planned operation conducted by a group that has a global dimension and that's willing to spend time planning this kind of attack.

And there's another thing going on here. There's a degree of puzzlement in India as what's actually happening, because there are two Indians who are already being tried in Mumbai, and the authorities have also charged them with scouting out targets for the attacks, a role that Headley's supposed to have carried out. So it's not clear how all this fits together.

MONTAGNE: Are there other conclusions also being drawn about the Mumbai assaults and the aftermath from all this swirl of new information?

REEVES: Yes. I mean, after the Mumbai attacks there was a lot of political rhetoric, you know, about the need for international cooperation, just as there was after 9/11.

Now, it does seem, though, that this time the FBI and the Indian security agencies, notably the National Investigation Agency, which was set up after the Mumbai attacks by India, they've been working pretty closely on this one. Indian detectives, for example, reportedly retraced Headley's movements in India and I'm sure they'll have passed that information on to the FBI. So I think it is significant that this cooperation has developed.

MONTAGNE: And Phil, one of the 10 militants who attacked Mumbai was caught and is now on trial in Mumbai. What is happening with that case?

REEVES: Yes. That's a Pakistani called Ajmal Amir Kasab. His trial began in May and it's still going on. A few days ago the court sacked his lawyer, accusing the lawyer of being obstructive, and he's had another lawyer appointed by the court now.

Now, the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks was just a few weeks ago and when that came around and there was a lot of media attention obviously to what had happened, there were renewed calls from some elements, some quarters in India, for Kasab to be hanged immediately on the grounds that he was caught red-handed and that keeping him in a top security prison and putting him on trial is extremely expensive.

It's likely, though, that the Indians will have been interrogating him now about all these new developments surrounding Headley and that if they extracted any information from Kasab, they'll have passed that along to the U.S., something that of course couldn't have happened if he had been executed.

MONTAGNE: Philip, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Philip Reeves, speaking from New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.