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US Promises India 'Full Access' to Mumbai Attack Planner

The United States says it will allow India to question an American citizen who has admitted helping plan the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.  But U.S. officials say he can not be extradited on the existing charges.  

India is making preparations to question, in the United States, admitted terror planner David Coleman Headley.

The Pakistani-American plead guilty in Chicago Thursday to 12 counts including conspiring to carry out bombings in India, providing material support to foreign terrorists and planning to kill people in India and Denmark.

The plea allows Headley, who was arrested in Chicago in October, to avoid the death penalty in the United States.

Robert Blake in New Delhi, 20 Mar 2010
Robert Blake in New Delhi, 20 Mar 2010

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake told reporters in New Delhi the federal court deal also limits other countries prosecuting him on similar charges.

"Part of the agreement was that the United States would not extradite Mr. Headley either to India or to Pakistan or to Denmark on the charges for which he has now admitted guilt. That does not mean that at some future date some additional charges could not be brought. I don't want to speculate too much about the possibility of future extradition, but at least on these charges he cannot be extradited," he said.

But the assistant secretary said India will have full access to question Headley as part of its investigation of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which more than 160 people were killed.

India's Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, in a statement released Saturday, said the Headley plea agreement is a "damning indictment' of the role in the attacks played by others in Pakistan. He called for Pakistan to take action against the conspirators, saying nothing short of bringing them to justice will satisfy India or world opinion.

The Mumbai siege is blamed on the Pakistan-based Laskhar-e-Taiba. Headley made five trips to India's commercial capital and other cities to survey potential target sites for the terror group, which he told prosecutors he began working for in 2002.  

Headley is the son of a Pakistani diplomat and an American mother.  A convicted heroin smuggler, he changed his name from Daood Gilani four years ago.

The U.S. Justice Department says he is now providing valuable intelligence as he awaits sentencing.

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