NEW DELHI, India – In recent years, quiet rendezvous points for Jewish travelers, Jewish establishments and Israeli tourists have become likely terror targets with the Lashkar-e-Taiba squad that attacked Mumbai being tasked to hit a little-known Chabad house in the city as well.
The attack on the Chabad house – run by Jewish missionaries – was directed over the phone by Pakistani Lashkar controllers and claimed six lives. The target had been surveyed in detail prior to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and key plotter David Headley, a Pakistani-American, returned to scout Jewish establishments in no less than five cities.
The West Asia conflict makes Jewish establishments vulnerable and Israeli agencies have warned of fresh Mumbai-style attacks and asked its citizens to be careful. One such warning read, “The terror group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attack can conduct a number of attacks across India, including on the concentration of Western tourists and Israelis and may also attack Chabad houses.”
Monday’s attack on an Israeli diplomat, seen to be sponsored by Iranian groups, adds a new dimension to the threat posed by Sunni Deobandi groups like Lashkar. This adds a new aspect to the threats to Israelis as the perpetrators may be Shias sympathetic to Iran’s conflict with the United States and the Jewish state. Iran has regularly funded and backed the Hezbollah to target Israel.
Headley was not only instrumental in the Mumbai mayhem, he was also told by his handlers Ilyas Kashmiri – killed in a drone strike in Pakistan – and Sajid Mir to return to India after 26/11 and travel to places like Delhi, Goa, Pune and Pushkar to scout for Chabad houses and other places where Israeli nationals may be staying. His trips to India were also partly financed by a Major Iqbal, a serving officer in the Pakistani army who met Headley on his visits to Pakistan.
According to the National Investigation Agency chargesheet, he came to India in March 2009, to help plan coordinated strikes on Jewish targets. In Mumbai, he reconnoitered the EI Al office on Cuffe Parade. In Delhi, he stayed at the low-end tourist district of Paharganj where a Chabad house is located.
In Pushkar, Headley insisted on a room that had a view of the local Jewish praying centre and struck up an acquaintance with a couple who told him of a Chabad house in Goa. Headley then went to Anjuna in Goa and then to Pune where he set base at Koregaon Park, well-known for its Osho ashram. He staked out a Chabad house there.