Report: Osama bin Laden helped plan Mumbai attacks


Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed.

Osama bin Laden was in close contact with Hafiz Saeed, the wanted chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attack, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. Citing Bruce Riedel, a former advisor to President Obama on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Hindustan Times says that documents recovered in bin Laden’s Pakistani safe house prove the extensive relationship between al Qaeda’s deceased emir and LeT.

“The documents and files found in Abbottabad showed a close connection between Bin Laden and Saeed, right up to May 2011,” Riedel told the newspaper. Riedel added that the captured files “suggested a much larger direct al Qaeda role in the planning of the Mumbai attacks than many assumed” and bin Laden may have seen surveillance reports prepared by David Headley, the LeT operative who scouted out locations for the Mumbai siege.

The revelation of Hafiz Saeed’s ties to bin Laden led the US to offer a $10 million bounty for the LeT chieftain, according to the report. [For more on the reward, see LWJ report, US offers $10 million bounty for capture of Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.]

Such collusion would hardly be surprising. Al Qaeda and LeT have had a strong relationship for more than two decades. Abdullah Azzam, a mentor to bin Laden and co-founder of Maktab al Khadamat, a forerunner to al Qaeda, also helped found the LeT organization. In more recent years, the LeT’s network helped al Qaeda operatives flee Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. Al Qaeda terrorists have trained in LeT camps, and LeT members have fought alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban against Coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Ilyas Kashmiri, who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai assault, worked for multiple organizations during his tenure, including al Qaeda, LeT, and Harakat ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI). Headley answered to Kashmiri, who was reportedly killed in a June 2011 drone strike, as well as two other handlers in Pakistan.

Documents raise new questions

Assuming bin Laden’s files show what has been reported, the documents raise new questions about the former al Qaeda master’s ties to elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is a longtime Pakistani proxy that works closely with, and under the direction of, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The ISI used LeT to wage a proxy war against Indian forces in Kashmir during the 1990s. LeT head Hafiz Saeed has long received the ISI’s protection and backing, even after the Mumbai attacks drew international condemnation. Saeed has frequently been detained as a show of cooperation by Pakistani authorities, only to be released and then quickly returned to his terrorist business.

Saeed is so close to the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment that, according to Press Trust of India, he condemned the recent reward offered by the US during a press conference held at the “Flashman Hotel in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, located a short distance from the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters.”

“I am not hiding in caves and mountains, I am here in Rawalpindi,” Saeed told those in attendance. Saeed challenged the US to kill him in the same manner as Osama bin Laden.

If Osama bin Laden was in regular contact with Saeed up until his demise at the hands of Navy Seals in May 2011, it is difficult to believe that members of the ISI did not know about it.

During an American trial of one of his co-conspirators last year, Headley testified that two ISI-connected handlers worked with him in the plot. Sajid Mir and a man known as Major Iqbal both worked with and directed Headley throughout his missions.

Intercepted phone calls show that Mir directed the Mumbai attackers. Mir’s ties to the ISI were discussed at length in an exhaustive study of the Mumbai siege prepared by Sebastian Rotella for ProPublica and the Washington Post.

Rotella reported that Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a French judge who is renowned for his counterterrorism work, investigated the LeT’s operations and concluded “that Sajid Mir was a high-ranking officer in the Pakistani Army and apparently also was in the ISI.” Mir achieved the rank of major before leaving the Pakistani Army for some unknown reason.

Obviously, the man known as “Major Iqbal” received that title because he, too, became a major in the Pakistani Army. “US and Indian anti-terrorism officials suspect Major Iqbal was a serving ISI officer and a liaison to Lashkar,” Rotella reported. Iqbal reportedly gave Headley $25,000, which was used to facilitate the surveillance of potential targets in Mumbai.

And if this most recent account in the Hindustan Times is right, then the surveillance reports paid for by an ISI man ended up in the hands of Osama bin Laden.

While ISI-connected operatives were clearly involved in the Mumbai plot, questions remain about how much the highest-ranking officials in the ISI knew about it. The same type of debate was unleashed in May 2011, after Osama bin Laden was found living next to an elite Pakistani military academy. The ISI has multiple wings, with the T-wing considered vastly more friendly to the US than the S-wing, which manages the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment’s sponsorship of terrorist groups.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • villiger says:

    Thomas, good article rounding off the big picture.
    Its worth noting that the same story was also reported by The Telegraph yesterday:
    So, its not just the Hindustan Times not that they are not credible.

    Yup this is the merry little circle that Pakistan has spun around India, the US, the West and the free world in general:
    PakArmy>ISI>Talibs/LeT etc>AQ
    Pakistan is a demonstrated state sponsor of terrorism. Q.E.D.
    I am re-christening them to PAQISTAN given their love for AQ.
    I simply don’t get it–what is the World (led by the US) waiting for in taking corrective actions. For example:
    -India should initiate an appeal to have Paqistan thrown out of the Commonwealth, as they have been before.
    -Paq should be banned from the 2012 Olympics.
    -The world should stop playing cricket with Paq.
    There are 50 other things that can be done. Point is to make the people of Paqistan who are blase about their much-loved Army being terrorists sit-up and take notice. For God’s sake start pinching them at least, building up to hitting them hard.
    (As an aside, i wonder if Obama raised all this with Gilani when they met at the recent nuclear security summit in Seoul? Gilani was going on about Asia’s economy as if he were even a 2-cent player. Cheeky villains.)

  • indus says:

    So Osama helped plan the Mumbai attack, and the ISI imparted training (including naval training per surviving terrorist) to help implement this plan. Yet the Pakis continue to profess that there is no link between them and a) the terrorists, and b) Al Qaeda (Osama). How gullible they think we are? Further, the ISI was training the terrorists in implementing a plan, which wasn’t theirs and did not care to inquire as to whose plan they were providing the training for. And they did not want to know that Osama was living less than a km away from their West Point either. They must be the least inquisitive spooks in the whole world! How much of this bullcrap can we continue to take?

  • Mr T says:

    I was wondering when we were going to hear more about the information found in Bin Ladens hideout.
    Since he was not expecting visitors that night, I would suspect we found some good stuff but I haven’t really seen much about it.
    Information on Pakistans complicity in hiding him, communications with other members of various groups and people like this guy, names, addresses, phone numbers, and more importantly, information on the money trail.
    I know some had to be kept secret as we followed up but it’s been a while now.

  • Paul D says:

    Pakistan,Saudi and Iran are state sponsors of terrorism and should be declared this by the UN

  • Devin Leonard says:

    This moron better be carefull who he challenges to do what…he may find out he’s not nearly as safe in Pakistan as he thinks he is:)

  • Ben says:

    When does this nonsense stop?
    Of course there are larger strategic reasons for the bounty on Saeed, but come on.
    How much more money and blood needs to be spilled trying to contain the Paks?
    When do we get the same reporting regarding the various wealthy Saudi’s who fund much of the Salafist/Wahabi terrorism around the globe?

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    This article does make sense, in why Bin Laden was living in Abbotabad, which was protected by the Pakistani military. Also the courier of Bin Laden who was killed at the compound had telephone numbers of members of Pakistan’s Harkat-ul-Mujahideen group, which is protected by the ISI, who uses that organisation in its proxy war against India over Kashmir.
    However Bin Laden also had links with the Pakistani Taliban, who are not favoured by the ISI. Basically islamic groups will go with one group if it is supported by the ISI on a particular agenda and then will go with another group if it is not supported by the ISI, for another agenda.
    In other words, they will join with anyone if it suits their agenda like Afghanistan, but will choose something else if its related against Pakistan.

  • mike merlo says:

    Concerning how much information is easily available to anyone with 1/2 a mind willing enough to go ‘digging’ around it’s safe to say that those ISI personnel in league with bin Laden & his cohorts knew & did everything they’ve been suspected of.

  • Charu says:

    Doesn’t surprise me a bit. It is like a giant Matryoshka terror doll; a state (Al Qaeda) within a state (LeT) within a state (ISI) within a state (Pak military) within a state (the Islamic Republic of Pakistan). The key question is what is the US – since it is the only country other than Israel that has the b*lls to do something proactive about existential threats – going to do about this terrorist nation? Since the Pakistanis are not even pretending to help in the GWOT anymore, it may be time for a full-fledged covert war, just like the one that Israel is waging by itself in Iran.

  • Steve says:

    The elephant in the room here is Kashmir. We will not tell India to conduct democratic elections there to determine wether the people there want to be Paksitani or Indian – even though at partion in 1947 the majority would have wanted to be Pakistani. Take Kashmir out of the equation and LeT has no raison détre.
    Remember we attacked Serbia so that Kosovo could be liberated so why not let Kashmir have the same privelege?

  • Arjuna says:

    This is from a rediff article citing Bruce Reidel: America has cracked the code to how the Al Qaeda communicates, and they will soon track down Osama-bin-Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is operating relatively close to Rawalpindi.
    Awfully specific, let’s hope we’re getting close.
    “close to Rawalpindi” sounds state-sponsored…
    Any thoughts on the T versus S wngs points in Tom’s piece?

  • Afghan says:

    i dont want to write an article on this article but shortly i just want to say that as Porkistan played USSR and made money from the USA now its doing the same thing, its fooling USA and manking money from USA and US enemies now what we have to do? well i would say for GOD sake USA stop giving money to bloody porkistan and start baning their products and cut them from the world same as what the world is doing with terrorist I ran. I said this to the US high ranking officials 6 years ago but they didnt belive me but now they do act before its too late where osama was found? Who did the time square bombing? Where is LeT? The war should be in Afghanistan or in porkistan? Wake up world before its too late

  • Bungo says:

    Question : Why doesn’t the current U.S. administration not take all of this damning information before the world in a coordinated, massive expose in the media to let everyone know, without a doubt, once and for all, that Pakistan’s ISI promotes international islamic terrorism and is a threat to world security?
    Answer : Elements of the administration (CIA and/or State Department) still think Pak “cooperation” overides this problem re. the conflict in Afghanistan OR they they think they can still rehabilitate Pakistan.
    Conclusion : Pragmatism is a SOB

  • bard207 says:

    The elephant in the room here is Kashmir. We will not tell India to conduct democratic elections
    there to determine wether the people there want to be Paksitani or Indian – even though at partion
    in 1947 the majority would have wanted to be Pakistani. Take Kashmir out of the equation and LeT
    has no raison détre. Remember we attacked Serbia so that Kosovo could be liberated so why not
    let Kashmir have the same privelege?
    The concept of joining Pakistan to be liberated is a headscratcher. Ask people in Bangladesh how liberating it was to be part of Pakistan.
    Why are Pakistanis unable to understand some very simple truths?
    1. Pakistan has received massive funding from the U.S. over the decades.
    2. The U.S. interceded to protect Pakistan in 1971.
    The Tilt: The U.S. and the South Asian Crisis of 1971

    3. India hasn’t gotten the huge U.S. funding that Pakistan has gotten.
    4. India has had to put up with a wayward Pakistan that continues with mischief
    and then hides behind the U.S. when the truth is found out (see Kasab).
    5. Bin Laden was sheltered in Pakistan, not India.
    Pakistan refuses to do what the U.S. has requested in regards to cleaning out the
    militants sheltering in the tribal areas even though the U.S. has come through for
    Pakistan over the decdes.
    How can the U.S. be expected to have influence over India when it has done multiple
    favors for Pakistan and has no influence over Pakistan?
    The sentiment in Pakistan appears to be Fill My Begging Bowl, but don’t
    expect Pakistan to do anything in return.

    The Balance Sheet of favors done by the U.S. is tilted heavily for
    Pakistan versus what it has doen for India, yet the U.S. is probably much
    more popular in India than it is in Pakistan.

  • Matt says:

    Victory over Al Qaeda means victory over Pakistan, period. Musharaff should be arrested and sent to Gitmo. Kayani should be made to stand on the deck of a CVN and sign a full UNCONDITIONAL surrender with their nukes confiscated. Finally we seem to know those who must be destroyed for victory.

  • Nic says:

    Here is a bit of irony. For years Pakistan has provided sanctuary for those who have killed ISAF troops in Afghanistan yet we in the United States eagerly purchase goods manufactured in Pakistan.
    SOURCE: Office of the United States Trade Representative ( )
    ” Pakistan is currently our 57th largest goods trading partner with $5.4 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2010. Goods exports totaled $1.9 billion; Goods imports totaled $3.5 billion. The U.S. goods trade deficit with Pakistan was $1.6 billion in 2010. ”
    ” U.S. goods imports from Pakistan totaled $3.5 billion in 2010, a 11.0% increase ($346 million) from 2009, and up 247% over the last 16 years.
    The five largest import categories in 2010 were: Miscellaneous Textile Products ($1.3 billion), Knit Apparel ($1.1 billion), Woven Apparel ($429 million), Cotton and Yarn and Fabric ($127 million), and Furniture and Bedding ($85 million).
    U.S. imports of agricultural products from Pakistan totaled $63 million in 2010. The leading category was: rice ($22 million).
    Trade Balance
    The U.S. goods trade deficit with Pakistan was $1.6 billion in 2010, a 4.2% increase ($65 million) over 2009. ”
    The consumer in the United States is a direct supporter of Pakistan as a result of buying goods made in Pakistan. This error can be corrected by a national boycott of Pakistani goods. The country of origin is on the label of all goods sold in the United States. Letting Pakistani goods gather dust on store shelves is a good beginning. Writing letters to stores that carry Pakistani goods is Step Two. Turning the boycott into national policy is Step Three. Send your opinions to the following address : . I now ask fellow readers to suggest Step Four.

  • Charu says:

    Steve, you have built up a straw elephant here. There have been several democratic elections held in Indian Kashmir – and none in Pakistani Kashmir.
    The Albanians never mounted a Mumbai-styled attack on Serbia, or planned to attack Western cities, or worked closely with a mass murderer of American citizens. There is no comparison between Kosovo and Kashmir other than both locations having names starting with the letter K ,and having a Muslim majority after ethnically cleansing people of other religious persuasions from the territory.
    Saeed and LeT’s raison d’etre is also a lot more than just Indian Kashmir. Saeed inflammatory public speeches are always about planting the Pakistani flag in the Indian capital.
    Appeasing bloody terrorism is no privilege!

  • Villiger says:

    “The concept of joining Pakistan to be liberated is a headscratcher.”
    ” Fill My Begging Bowl, but don’t expect Pakistan to do anything in return.”
    Shamelessness is fast becoming a national characteristic in Paqistan. But what about the insanity of the donor going on decade-after-decade-after-decade filling this bowl? Isn’t this a form of corruption? What has the US ever got in return from the Paqis except when they played gigolo in their introduction to China?
    Brad, as usual, an excellent response, beautifully argued and researched. In particular thanks for the link “The Tilt: The U.S. and the South Asian Crisis of 1971” at your point 2 above–i recommend it to every reader to take a look; makes riveting reading.
    Finally, in the spirit of the above conversation, i’d quite like your observations on Baluchistan and/or any sources you may wish to refer me to, to understand quite what is going on there.

    Steve, you’ve heard the saying “a little knowledge is dangerous”? Your remark is an exemplary example of that.

  • Villiger says:

    Nic: “I now ask fellow readers to suggest Step Four.”
    Step Four: We could all start calling it PAQISTAN right away (and spread the consciousness with greater effect around the globe). Three good reasons why:
    1. AQ has its roots in that country and is completely and inseparably intertwined into its ‘establishment’ and fabric.
    2. Pakistani is a very long word with 4-syllables and unlike Venezuela, we do have to use it way too often because of their disproportionate mischief. When abbreviated to Paki, it is considered derogatory. So Paqistan lends itself to a convenient abbreviation of Paqi, not classified as derogatory.
    3. Some Paqis claim that the K in the name denotes Kashmir. Well, we all know that they are unfit to manage even the territory they have, leave alone their claims. Pakistan has forfeited its claim to Kashmir in the eyes of the civilised world. So we can now drop the K and adopt the Q which helps complete the reality.
    Over to others on Step Five.

  • Lakshman says:

    This terrorist Hafiz Sayyid who is backed by ISI, is belligerent and challenges the authorities of other countries. Pakistan Govt, powerless against its own Army (ISI) bluffs the world they shall act if evidence is provided. Initially Pakistan refused Kasab is not a Pak national. Pakistani society is deprived of honour and will blah blah even if mountains of evidence is submitted against Hafiz Sayyid.
    There is no meaning in providing evidence against this terrorist to Pak Government. Even if jailed, he would be treated as a King inside the jail. Abbotabad style killing will silence him but should not be done.
    It is my view he should be exposed to the Pakistani public as a terrorist before taking any action against him. Widespread campaign explaining the terror activities of his organisation should be spread and debates on him and his terrorist organisation should be carried out in a sustained manner in foreign media so that all those propaganda reaches Pakistani Public at frequent intervals. Before being killed or imprisoned, this terrorist must be discredited in the eyes of muslim population. This will take time. But if We succeed, pakistan army’s use of Islam and Mullahs for their design will get a beating. This is more important for world peace than arresting or killing of that individual.
    I stress again that discrediting this man in front of his population will serve us better and be more effective to us as well as Pakistani society than imprisoning him. U.S. did this successfully in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was discredited and no one shed any tear for him in Iraq. But that the Americans exhausted their good will and spoiled a success story due to their arrogance there is a different story.
    Making this terrorist Hafiz a Saddam is more important than capturing him

  • Villiger says:

    Bard, excuse me, sorry i’m getting dyslexic with playing around with the alphabet!

    Lakshman, you make a very good point–i see the deep thinking behind it and agree with you!

  • bard207 says:

    Thank you.
    The elephant in the room here is Kashmir. We will not tell India to conduct democratic elections
    there to determine wether the people there want to be Paksitani or Indian – even though at partion
    in 1947
    the majority would have wanted to be Pakistani. Take Kashmir out of the equation and
    LeT has no raison détre. Remember we attacked Serbia so that Kosovo could be liberated so why not
    let Kashmir have the same privelege?
    I failed the other day to address what you said about Democratic Elections.
    If Pakistan is going to really
    Reach and invoke a Democratic Elections
    concept in regards to Kashmir, then Pakistan should step forward First and have
    the decency and self respect to apologize for what Pakistan (West Pakistan) did
    when it didn’t like the results of Democratic Elections in 1970 – 1971.
    Pakistani general election, 1970
    The party received a huge percentage of the popular vote in East Pakistan
    and emerged as the largest party overall in the nation as a whole,
    gaining the exclusive mandate of Pakistan in terms of both seats and voters.[1]
    But, the Awami League had failed to gather any support from West-Pakistan
    and her Provinces, and they had no representation in West Pakistan.
    This fact was used by the leftists and democratic socialists led
    by Zulfikar Bhutto who argued that Mujib had received no mandate or
    support from West Pakistan, therefore Mujib should not appointed as
    Prime Minister, despite his party receiving a massive majority vote
    overall. One may see some irony in the fact that they felt Mr Bhutto
    should continue to rule over East Pakistan where his mandate was
    equally non-existent.

    Bangladesh asks Pakistan to apologize for war (November 20, 2011)
    DHAKA: A senior Bangladeshi official on Sunday urged Pakistan to formally apologize for
    alleged atrocities and acts of genocide committed by the Pakistani military
    during the independence war in 1971.
    Also settling with Bangladesh on outstanding issues such as war reparations and division of assets
    would show that Pakistan is interested in being a Good Neighbor in South Asia.

  • villiger says:

    Continuing my play with the alphabet, Paqistan, you never made space for the B’s (Bengal and Baluchistan) in your so-divine name . How unfortunate for those of you tied to the rump and fortunate for those who want their liberty.

  • frank cold says:

    The nature of the ISI is clearly exposed. Why is it still so impossible to imagine that the Saudi-Pakistan intelligence network planned and operated ALL Al-Qaeda operations(yes WTC inc.). Only explanations they have too much information on us. And/or our intelligence operations are so dependent on their co-operation, that we don’t dare unmask them or?…..


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