WASHINGTON – Two wives of a businessman convicted in the Mumbai terrorist attacks in India spoke to U.S. authorities about their husband before the violent assaults in 2008. But two government officials said Saturday that the wives of David Headley provided information that was general in nature and did not involve specifics about any particular terrorist plot.
One of the officials told The Associated Press that one of Headley's wives informed the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force that Headley had expressed to her his support for Pakistan in its bitter dispute with India over Kashmir.
The official, who is familiar with the matter, said the FBI interviews in New York City occurred three years before the 2008 rampage that killed 166 people. The woman was not identified.
Headley last March pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Chicago to laying the groundwork for the massacre in Mumbai and performing similar surveillance in anticipation of an attack on a Danish newspaper whose cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad were offensive to Muslims.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the second wife, a Moroccan, provided information at the American Embassy in Islamabad in 2007 that Headley was involved in a terrorist group that was actively plotting against targets in India. It said the second wife, Faiza Outalha, met twice with an assistant regional security officer and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at the embassy.
The Times said Headley had at least three wives, and at one time was married to all three.
One of the two American officials confirmed that Headley's wives shared concerns with U.S. officials prior to the attack and that those concerns warranted attention.
In response to the disclosures about the information from Headley's wives, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that "we take our counterterrorism cooperation with India very seriously. The United States regularly provided threat information to Indian officials in 2008. Had we known about the timing and other specifics related to the Mumbai attacks, we would have immediately shared those details with the government of India."
Regarding the wife who gave information to the FBI in 2005, the independent investigative news organization ProPublica reported on the website of The Washington Post that she told federal agents her husband was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, which carried out the Mumbai attacks.
The ProPublica story also said she told the federal agents that her husband had trained extensively in the terrorist group's Pakistani camps and had shopped for night-vision goggles and other equipment.
But the official familiar with the FBI interview told The Associated Press that the woman did not say that her husband was an active militant or that he expressed a desire to engage in violent acts. Both U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the Headley case is still an open matter. The FBI declined to comment on Saturday.
The official said that Headley's wife spoke generally of her husband having hiking supplies, but not that she knew of membership involvement in a group.