A Chicago businessman who spent more than 10 years in prison for supporting terrorist groups has been arrested in Los Angeles to face charges in India for attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people, US prosecutors said Friday.
Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian, was convicted of a crime related to the Mumbai killings that are sometimes called India's 9/11, though US prosecutors had failed to prove a terrorism charge that connected him directly to the three-day rampage during his 2011 trial.
Rana, 59, was serving a 14-year sentence when he was granted early release from a Los Angeles federal prison last week because of poor health and a bout of coronavirus, prosecutors said. He was arrested two days later and remains in custody in LA because he faces extradition to India on murder conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.
Rana was convicted in Chicago of providing support for the Pakistani terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which planned the India attack, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the prophet are prohibited in Islam.
Jurors cleared Rana of a more serious charge of providing support to the 10 men who carried out the attacks in Mumbai, India's largest city, that killed 166, injured nearly 240 and caused $1.5 billion in damage.
Rana's lawyer said he had been duped by his high school buddy, David Coleman Headley, an admitted terrorist who plotted the Mumbai attacks and the government's chief witness who testified to avoid the death penalty. The defence called Headley a habitual liar and manipulator.
Rana was accused of allowing Headley to open a branch of his Chicago-based immigration law business in Mumbai as a cover story and travel as a representative of the company in Denmark.
Prosecutors said Rana knew Headley had trained as a terrorist. Headley shared information of the scouting missions he conducted in Mumbai and of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where gunmen later slaughtered dozens of people.
Headley, who was born in the US to a Pakistani father and American mother, said his hatred of India dated to his childhood when his school was bombed by Indian military planes during a war between the countries in 1971.
Months after the Mumbai attacks, Headley, who did not take part in the attacks, told Rana he was “even with the Indians now”, according to a court document. Rana said they deserved it.
Headley, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder, was sentenced to 35 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, he can't be extradited to India.
The only surviving terrorist in the Mumbai attacks was sentenced to death in India and hanged.
An request for comment to a public defender was not immediately returned.