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Revisiting 26/11: When son of Mahesh Bhatt was told by American terrorist David Headley to not go to South Mumbai

Headley told the Chicago court that he intended to recruit Bhatt as an ISI agent and take him to Pakistan's tribal areas.

15 years have passed since the 26/11 deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai. On November 26, 2008, ten Pakistani terrorists arrived in Mumbai via sea. They attacked various locations in the southern part of the city, including Nariman House, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, and grand hotels like Taj Palace and Trident.

They opened fire in public and killed scores, planted a bomb inside a taxi and drove it into Mumbai’s suburbs. Ajmal Kasab was apprehended alive, and his nine accomplices were neutralized in a 60-hour operation.

It is worth recalling that controversial filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s son Rahul Bhatt was named by 26/11 terrorist David Headley during interrogation. A lesser talked about fact relating to Rahul Bhatt’s ‘friendship’ with terrorist David Headley is that back in 2008, he warned Rahul Bhatt not to go to South Mumbai on 26/11.

Screengrab of the news report

The duo first met at a gym in Mumbai in 2007. In 2011, David Coleman Headley told a Chicago court that he told Bhatt not to go to South Mumbai on November 26, the day of the Mumbai terror attacks. Even after the attacks Headley and Rahul Bhatt were in touch over emails.

Headley reportedly told the court that was “never more pleased” although he was said to have written “sorry” to Rahul Bhatt. Terrorist David Headley had told the court back then that he began liking Rahul Bhatt t and that he had planned to make a movie with him.

Headley told the Chicago court that he intended to recruit Bhatt as an ISI agent and take him to Pakistan’s tribal areas, but not to kidnap or kill him, as defence attorney Charles D Swift alleged.

In an interview with NDTV thirteen years back, Rahul Bhatt said that he and his gym trainer friend Vilas used to call Headley as “Agent Headley” saying that he was very intelligent and used jargon like a secret agent. Bhatt revealed that Headley had told him that he was of Irish descent.

Headley had also told his ‘friend’ that attacks like the one at the Marriot Hotel in Pakistan’s Islamabad in 2008 that left around 53 dead and hundreds injured could happen in India as well. However, Bhatt did not take it seriously.

“Once we were talking about terror attacks and a bomb blast at one of the hotels in Islamabad. Headley said to me that looking at the situation around, ‘you can see similar things happen in your country too’. But I never got any negative vibe from him,” Rahul Bhatt said.

When Mahesh Bhatt wanted to name his son Rahul as ‘Mohammad’

In a 2012 interview with the Times of India, Rahul Bhatt levelled several startling accusations about his father, Mahesh Bhatt. In this interview, he stated that Mahesh never thought of him as his son and intended to name him ‘Mohammad.’

Many people did not believe him when he said that, but it was true, according to him. It was his neighbours who requested his Anglo-Indian mother not to let Mahesh name him Mohammad as Mahesh would have several chances to show his secularism.

Rahul claimed back then that if he was named Mohammad, no one would even know who his father was. He believed when his name appeared in the 26/11 case if he had named Mohammad, he would have been thrown in Tihar with no scope of coming out.

He blamed his father for not considering or treating him as his son. Rahul said it was his behaviour that allowed to him come in contact with Headley. If he had been a better father, the situation would have been a lot different.

Those times and circumstances were challenging for him. He had no one to show the right path. He said though he knows he should not say, but Mahesh treated him like an illegitimate child.

Headley reconnoitred terror targets in Mumbai before the attacks

According to a 2013 US Justice Department press release, David Headley was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in terror attacks in Mumbai and Denmark.

Headley received instructions in 2005 from his masters in Islamic terrorist outfit Lashkar e Tayyiba to change his name before conducting reconnaissance of the target sites in India in 2006.

Headley, who was a US citizen of Pakistan descent changed his name in Philadelphia “to facilitate his activities on behalf of Lashkar by portraying himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani.”

Dawood Gilani, aka David Headley, visited Mumbai five times: in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008. He used to take videos and pictures of the potential targets and give them to Lashkar terrorists during his visit to Pakistan.

Moreover, Headley and his accomplices in Pakistan discussed potential landing sites in Mumbai for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea. It is worth mentioning that Pakistani-origin Canadian terrorist Tahawwur Rana committed fraud against the Indian government through the creation and submission of forged documents.

Tahawwur Rana was convicted in Chicago for providing support for the Pakistani terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba – the main conspirator of the Mumbai attacks and also on charges of supporting a possible terror attack against a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2005.

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