CHICAGO — The allegations against Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana are fairly straightforward: He helped a former boarding school friend serve as a scout for terrorists who carried out a 2008 rampage that killed over 160 people in Mumbai.
But the implications of Rana’s trial, which begins with jury selection today in Chicago, could be enormous: To make their case, federal prosecutors may lay bare alleged connections between the militant group blamed for the Mumbai attack and Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, which has come under increasing scrutiny after Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda terrorist leader, was found living in a compound not far from Pakistan’s capital.
The key government witness could be David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American with a troubled past who pleaded guilty last year to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attack by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Headley is cooperating with US officials and told interrogators that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency provided training and funds for the attack against India, the country’s archnemesis.
Headley told authorities that Rana provided him with cover for his scouting missions to Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Rana is on trial on charges of providing material support for terrorism in India and Denmark.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization that some suspect of having ties to the ISI, is accused of carrying out the three-day siege in Mumbai in which 10 gunmen attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, and a busy train station in India’s financial capital, killing 166 people, including six Americans.