BROOKLYN (CN) – Families of victims of the November 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, India accuse officers in the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of aiding and abetting Lashkar-e Tayyiba in the slaughter of 166 people and the wounding of more than 300. The attorney for the five families, James Kreindler, said in an interview that “as far as I know” it is the first lawsuit that directly accuses the ISI and its officers of participating in the murders.
“We’ve been looking at this for a while, and as more information has come out, it made it very clear that the ISI has been intimately involved in planning and supporting the terrorist acts,” Kreindler told Courthouse News.
According to the federal complaint: “The ISI has long nurtured and used international terrorist groups, including LeT [Lashkar-e Tayyiba], to accomplish its goals and has provided material support to LeT and other international terrorist groups.”
Ten terrorists shot people and bombed the Chabad House, the Oberoi-Trident Hotel, the CST Railway Station, the Leopold Cafe and Bar and the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai in a four-day siege, from Nov. 26 to 29, 2008.
The families accuse Pakistan’s ISI of providing “critical planning, material support, control and coordination of the attacks.”
Defendants include Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who has been director general of the ISI since September 2008; Nadeem Taj, director general of the ISI from September 2007 until September 2008; Major Iqbal, who “is and was” an ISI officer; and Major Samir Ali, who also “is and was” an ISI officers.
All of the terrorists were Pakistani; nine were killed during the siege.
The 26-page complaint documents the events before and during the attack in vivid detail, from training camps, to the hijacking of an inflatable boat in Karachi on Nov. 22, 2008, to its arrival on Mumbai shores a day later, and scenes from the 4 days of carnage.
“The ten LeT [Lashkar-e Tayyiba] members who undertook the on-the-ground Mumbai terrorist attack underwent extensive training in the LeT camps in Pakistan,” the complaint states. “All members of the LeT camps were trained in the use of firearms, explosives and counter-interrogation, and were indoctrinated as to the purported need and justification for suicide attacks.”
Defendant Azam Cheema, “LeT’s surveillance or intelligence chief,” trained the attackers to make bombs and taught them how to infiltrate India, according to the complaint.
It adds that U.S. citizen David Headley built a “network of connections” in Chicago, New York, and Pakistan at the “direction and material support” of LeT and ISI. Headley, however, is not named as a defendant in the federal complaint.
“In part to fund and facilitate the planned international terror attack, in 2006, Headley and another Chicago-based individual named Tahawur Hussain Rana (‘Rana’) opened an office advertised as ‘First World Immigration’ in Mumbai,” the complaint states.
Headley used the office to perform “reconnaissance” on the Chabad House and other sites of the Mumbai attacks for 2 years, sending video and oral reports of his trips to LeT and ISI contacts, the families say.
“In September 2008, the ten LeT attackers were moved to Karachi and installed in an ISI/LeT safe house,” the complaint states. “The safe house was part of ISI’s ‘Karachi Project,’ an initiative by which anti-Indian groups were tasked and/or supported by the ISI in a surreptitious fashion to engage in acts of international terrorism.”
After receiving “maritime training,” the families say, “The LeT attackers left Karachi, Pakistan by boat on the morning of November 22, 2008.”
The complaint continues: “During the afternoon of the next day, the LeT attackers hijacked an Indian fishing vessel, the M/V Kuber and its five crewmembers. Four of the crewmembers of the M/V Kuber were killed and the hijackers forced the captain to navigate the ship to Mumbai. Four miles offshore of Mumbai, the hijackers’ leader, Ismail Khan, contacted his handler in Pakistan who directed Khan to kill the captain. Khan did so.
“The LeT attackers then boarded an inflatable boat, traversed the four miles to shore and landed in South Mumbai after dark on the evening of November 23, 2008.
“After landing in Mumbai, the ten LeT attackers paired off into five teams of two men each. The ten men targeted the Chabad House, the Oberoi-Trident Hotel, the CST Railway Station, the Leopold Cafe and Bar and the Taj Mahal Hotel, and proceeded to attack those sites with the firearms, bombs and explosive devices they brought with them from Karachi.
“The LeT attackers used AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades and RDX-based explosive devices with the intention to do violence to, terrorize and cause panic amongst their victims.”
One victim, Rivka Holtzberg, was 5 months pregnant and was killed with her unborn child in the Chabad House. Her husband, Gavriel Noah Holtzberg, was also killed. Their 2-year-old son Moshe Holtzberg was rescued after seeing his parents murdered.
The child’s guardian Shimon Rosenberg sued on the boy’s behalf.
Nachman Holtzberg, Moses Shvarzblat and Maribeth Jeswani also sued on behalf of family members killed in the attacks. Andreina Varagona, who was shot in her right arm and leg in the attack, sued on her own behalf.
They sued Lashkar-e Tayyiba and its officers Mohamaed Hafiz Sayeed, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, Sajid Majid aka Sajir Mir, and Azam Cheema; and the ISI and its officers Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Nadeem Taj, Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali.
The families seek compensatory and punitive damages for personal injuries, wrongful death and aiding and abetting.
They are represented by James Kreindler and The Silverman Law Firm.