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Mumbai Terrorist Attack Prosecution Adds Four Defendants

Four people allegedly affiliated with the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba were added as defendants to a U.S. Justice Department case accusing a Chicago-area businessman of helping to plot the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

While their indictment by a federal grand jury in Chicago was unsealed today, none are in U.S. custody, according to an e-mailed statement from a spokesman for Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn. The November 2008 attacks killed 164 people over three days, including six Americans.

The revised indictment comes three weeks before the scheduled May 16 trial of Tahawwur Rana, a Canadian citizen who ran an immigration services business with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose name prosecutors say translates to “Army of the Good,” was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2001.

Each of the new defendants faces six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India, which carry maximum sentences of death or life imprisonment. Prosecutors identified three of the men as Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal and provided only a pseudonym for the fourth, “Major Iqbal.” All four are also charged with one count of conspiracy to murder and maim in India, while Mir, Abu Qahafa and Mazhar Iqbal additionally are charged with conspiracy to bomb public places in India.

Rana had been accused of using his First World Immigration Services to assist another man, David Coleman Headley, to conduct reconnaissance missions for the Mumbai attack. Rana is also accused of helping Headley conduct surveillance for a never-executed attack on a Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons by the artist Kurt Westergaard including one depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.

Depictions of the prophet are forbidden in that faith. Publication of the Westergaard cartoons touched off protests in Muslim communities worldwide.

Headley, who may have faced the death penalty if he had been convicted after a trial, in March 2010 pleaded guilty to 12 criminal counts including aiding and abetting the murder of Americans in Mumbai and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.

Rana faces life imprisonment if convicted on the charges he provided material support to the Mumbai attackers.

His attorney, Patrick Blegen, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the revised indictment. A status conference before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber is scheduled for tomorrow.

The case is U.S. v. Kashmiri, 09-cr-00830, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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