Two wives of a businessman convicted over the Mumbai terrorist attacks in India spoke to the FBI about their husband three years before, it has emerged.
But a government official said last night that the information from David Headley’s wives was general in nature and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task force found no connections to a specific threat, plot or terrorist group.
The official said that in 2005 one wife informed the FBI 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 attacks that killed 166 people. The woman was not identified.
Headley pleaded guilty in the US District Court in Chicago last March 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 Mohammed were offensive to Muslims.
The New York Times reported 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 of them.
One of the two American officials confirmed that Headley’s wives shared concerns with US officials before the attack and that those concerns warranted attention.
In response to the disclosures about the information from Headley’s wives, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said that “we take our counter-terrorism co-operation with India very seriously”.
“The US 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,” he added.
The independent investigative news organisation ProPublica said on the website of The Washington Post that the wife who gave information to the FBI in 2005 told agents that her husband was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, which carried out the Mumbai attacks.
The ProPublica story also said that she told the 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 said the woman did not say that her husband was an active militant or that he expressed a desire to engage in violent acts.
The FBI declined to comment last night.
The government 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.