U.S. Didn't Have Advance Warning of Mumbai Terrorist Attack, Officials Say

The U.S. regularly provided intelligence on threats to the Indian government before the 2008 terrorist plot in Mumbai and didn’t have information that would have prevented the attacks, U.S. officials said.

“The United States regularly provided threat information to Indian officials in 2008 before the attacks in Mumbai,” said Michael Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council. “Had we known about the timing and other specifics related to the Mumbai attacks, we would have immediately shared those details with the government of India.”

One of David C. Headley’s three wives had warned federal investigators in New York in 2005 that he was training in Pakistan with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that later carried out the attack in Mumbai, ProPublica reported Oct. 15. The three-day siege left 166 people dead.

In the three years between the warning and the attack, Headley was sent by the group, Lashkar-e-Taiba on reconnaissance missions around the world, ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism website, reported.

Faiza Outalha, a 27-year-old Moroccan woman also believed to be Headley’s wife, told American authorities in Pakistan in 2007 that she believed her husband was a member of Lashkar-e- Taiba and was plotting an attack, the New York Times reported today.

Headley has pleaded guilty to plotting the attack in a U.S. federal court. In 2008, Headley was operating as chief reconnaissance scout for the group, setting the stage for the Mumbai killings, according to the Times.

Solemn Duty

“It is our government’s solemn duty to notify other nations of possible terrorist actions on their soil,” State Department spokesman Noel Clay said in an interview.

U.S. authorities took the warnings of Headley’s former wives seriously, according to an administration official. The information was general and didn’t suggest any particular terrorist plot, the official said.

The New York Joint Terrorism Task Force acted on information provided by Headley’s American wife in 2005, which included allegations of domestic abuse, the official said. The task force couldn’t link the other information to a specific threat, the official said.

India has accused the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, that country’s military spy agency, of running the November 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack that killed 166 people in Mumbai, citing Indian investigators’ interrogation of Pakistani- American Headley.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net; Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva@bloomberg.net

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