Chicago Man Pleads Not Guilty to Helping Mumbai Attackers

BY Larisa Epatko  December 9, 2009 at 4:30 PM EDT

A Chicago man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assisting with last year’s terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai and plotting an armed assault on a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

David Coleman Headley, born in the United States of an American mother and Pakistani father, is accused of conducting reconnaissance of targets in Mumbai and training with the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group is believed to have carried out a three-day siege in India’s financial capital, which left 166 people dead.

Authorities allege that Headley used his cover as an American businessman to travel to India and collect information where Westerners were staying, including the two hotels and Jewish center that were attacked in November 2008.

An airport inspector’s questioning led to his arrest in October for conspiring to attack the Danish newspaper, according to a Wall Street Journal article. On Monday, he was charged in U.S. District Court in the Mumbai case.

Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani to be able to travel more freely, said Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times, who recently wrote about the issue of homegrown extremism.

Headley’s persona made him less suspicious and harder to track, coupled with his alleged training with Lashkar-e-Taiba and contact with high-ranking leaders, is a combination that concerns counterterrorism officials, Rotella said.

Tonight, learn more about Headley’s story when Jim Lehrer interviews Rotella on the NewsHour.