Two American citizens who have been indicted for plotting terror attacks overseas have direct connections to a senior al Qaeda commander and two Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives.
Chicago natives David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana have been charged in federal court with plotting to conduct attacks against a newspaper in Denmark, according to a criminal complaint that was unsealed today at the US District Court in Chicago. Headley was in contact with al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri and two unnamed Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives.
Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was detained on Oct. 3 after he attempted to travel to Pakistan. Headley has been charged with "one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to that overseas terrorism conspiracy," according to a press release written by the US Department of Justice.
Rana, a Canadian citizen from Pakistan, was detained on Oct. 18. Rana was was charged with "one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley and at least three other specific individuals in Pakistan."
Both Headley and Rana have been plotting to attack "facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten," the Danish newspaper that published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. The publication of the cartoons sparked violence and protest. The Taliban in Afghanistan have vowed to conduct retaliatory attacks in Denmark and Europe after the publication of the cartoons.
The operation was called the "Mickey Mouse Project," and, according to a senior US intelligence official contacted by The Long War Journal, the plot involved "assault teams" assigned to attack the headquarters of Jyllands-Posten and kill the staff. Further arrests in Denmark related to the plot are expected.
The attacks were to be "modeled" on the November 2008 assault in Mumbai and the attacks on police centers in Lahore and the Pakistani Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi this month, the official said. Kashmiri is known to have played a role in these attacks; he was a commando in Pakistan's army and for years has trained jihadi groups from Kashmir and other allied groups to conduct military operations.