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Ishrat Jahan was LeT operative, Headley tells Mumbai court

Mumbai: Pakistani-American terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Thursday said Thane collegian Ishrat Jahan, shot dead in an alleged shootout with police in 2004, was a Lashkar-e-Taiba member and hinted that she could be a potential suicide bomber.

"Jahan was a LeT member," Headley said in his sensational disclosure while deposing before Special TADA Court Judge A. Sanap via video-conferencing from a US jail.

Headley said the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi told him about "a botched up operation in India" of shooting at the police at a check-post in Gujarat.

A LeT woman operative was involved, said Headley identifying her as Thane college student Ishrat Jahan, out of the three names -- Noorjehan Begum, Ishrat Jahan and Mumtaz Begum -- given by Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam.

Muzammil Bhatt was the head of their group before Sajid Mir took over, Headley said, replying to questions by Nikam.

The revelation came when Nikam asked whether there was a women's wing of the LeT to which Headley replied in the positive and said its female head (whose name he did not know) was the mother of an LeT operative Abu Aiman.

Reacting to the deposition, former Gurjarat Deputy Inspector General of Police D.G. Vanzara told media persons that Headley's testimony on Ishrat is "very important" and proved his contention it was "a genuine encounter (shootout)".

"She was from the LeT and the Gujarat Police knew it in 2004. She was a LeT suicide bomber; it has been told in the open court," said the 62-year-old IPS officer who is facing allegations of 'extra-judicial' killings in the case.

On June 15, 2004, Ishrat Jahan and three persons accompanying her - Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana - were shot dead on a road near Kotarpur on Ahmedabad's outskirts.

The police team was led by Vanzara, who was later jailed for his alleged involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

The police then claimed that Ishrat and her associates were LeT operatives plotting to assassinate the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Subsequently, investigations revealed in 2009 that the Ishrat shootout case was staged.