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Meet the woman who told the truth about David Headley, but whom no one believed

Covai Post Network


When it came to women, Headley revealed too much. And there was always one who talked.

Osama bin Laden’s father, Mohammed bin Laden, had at least fifty-four children from twenty-two different wives. So while Osama was attending college, he and a friend decided they would each also take several wives and have large families. For many of his peers, though, polygamy had acquired a bad rep because it had gotten so out of hand with their parents’ generation.

Osama bin Laden later developed a theory on the advantages of having several women in one’s life. Four was the optimal number, prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad himself, according to bin Laden.

“One is okay, like walking. Two is like riding a bicycle: it’s fast but a little unstable. Three is a tricycle, stable but slow. And when we come to four, ah! This is the ideal. Now you can pass everyone!”

Headley was, as usual, very excited about Osama bin Laden’s thoughts, including those on women.

Headley himself loved women. And he had many of them.

He bragged to a group of friends that he had been with more black women than his entire class at the military academy combined. That was about one hundred students.

But he found Pakistani women to be cumbersome. They’d all seen too many Bollywood movies with big, dramatic romance scenes, and they didn’t want to live their lives as the third or fourth wife in a complicated marriage.

“Arab women are much more understanding and open to it. They only ask that you be fair,” Headley wrote to his friends.

Headley’s many women were also his Achilles heel.

He could manage the American narcotics authorities; connections to the drug trade; heroin smugglers in Pakistan; Major Iqbal from the intelligence service; and Pasha, Sajid Mir and the others in Lashkar, and he could juggle all his roles and opportunities at once – without everything coming crashing down to the ground.

But when it came to women – wives, girlfriends, friends and his own mother – everything went wrong. He revealed too much. And there was always one who talked.

Her name was Faiza Outalha. She was originally from Morocco, but she was studying medicine at a university in Lahore, and it’s not difficult to see why Headley fell for her. Faiza had large, beautiful eyes and long, dark hair, and she was full of the same restless energy as Headley himself. The twenty-four-year-old woman didn’t put up with anything, complained loudly about unreasonable taxi fares, and always made sure she got her way.

And when she met Headley, nearly twice her age, while visiting a mutual acquaintance, neither of them had any doubts. In late February 2007, the two got married in Pakistan.

Faiza was warned in advance that Headley was already married and had children, but she accepted that as long as the other wife didn’t come to know about her.

And Shazia didn’t. At least, not in the beginning. Headley kept the marriage with Faiza a secret from his first wife. All he did was contact Shazia’s uncle Saulat to get his appraisal of whether it was permitted within Islam to take an additional wife while keeping it a secret. The uncle apparently approved of this.

Faiza’s temperament quickly caused problems for Headley in their hidden marriage. She insisted, for example, on going with him to Mumbai, where she had learnt that her new husband worked at an immigration office.

Headley hadn’t informed Faiza that his purpose in going to Mumbai was actually to plan a terrorist attack – nor did he intend to do so.

To get out of this pinch, Headley arranged the next trip to Mumbai so that it would be the couple’s official honeymoon. The two had beautiful views of the sea while staying at the Taj Hotel and Oberoi-Trident, where Headley took plenty of notes for his plans for the attack. Both locations ended up on the list of targets, and their vacation photos from Mumbai were later used for further terrorism plans. Faiza’s face was covered with a black bar in several of the photos, according to proper Salafist tradition.

But it all became a mess for Headley.

In Pakistan, he had pressured the otherwise very western-minded Faiza to wear a hijab. But on their honeymoon in India, he did everything he could to hide his Muslim background. And when the couple met some of his acquaintances, he explained that Faiza was one of his clients who wanted a work permit.

Headley and Faiza had several violent clashes during their honeymoon. It got to the point where Headley tried to put his new wife on a flight home to Pakistan, but she refused.

The new, secret marriage also resulted in a number of awkward situations in which Headley had to travel the world to get his cover stories to mesh.

A simple example: On 23 July 2007, he flew from Lahore to New York with a layover in Europe. In New York he spent a day with a cousin. He then flew to Morocco and was with Faiza for a good week or so before flying Emirates Airlines on 3 August from Casablanca back to Lahore to be with Shazia and the children. He told Shazia that he had been on a business trip.

In these circumstances, Headley had to be very focussed not to slip up. He would send his emails to Shazia in Pakistan to [email protected], while emails for Faiza went to [email protected].

Near the end of 2007, less than a year after they got married, his relationship with Faiza was on the verge of collapse.

Headley had tried to break up with her in a letter. The two fought about the secrecy with Shazia, which led to regular fistfights in front of Headley’s house in Lahore in December 2007.

Headley was arrested and put behind bars at the Race Course police station for eight days, until Shazia’s father bailed him out. It also helped that Major Iqbal pulled a few strings here and there. Headley got away once again without being charged for domestic violence.

But Headley’s anguish only worsened. That same month, Faiza talked her way into the American embassy in Pakistan. She was angry and loudly let the agents from the Department of State’s security agency know that her husband, an American citizen, was a terrorist. He had stayed in Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps and sometimes spoke about suicide missions, she said. And he might be involved in some activities in Mumbai.

Faiza also claimed that Headley was in the process of planning “jihad against the USA” and was involved with some “very important people”.

Later, Faiza returned with new information, in the hope that the Americans would arrest her husband and fly him to Guantánamo. She told them that Headley had received a “special mission”, apparently fabricating a story wherein he had been involved in a bombing attack on a train in India the previous year.

“He is either a terrorist or he’s working for you,” Faiza apparently told the American authorities.

It was clear, though, that Faiza was mixing facts with pure fiction, and the embassy staff didn’t find her particularly trustworthy. Even though it seems she showed the agents a picture of herself with Headley in front of the Taj Hotel.

There was no proof of anything at all.

The information about Headley and a possible attack in Mumbai was never passed on from the American embassy to Indian authorities. Later, the Americans did give India a weak warning about a possibly approaching attack, but it didn’t include the name David Headley.

A few months before the Mumbai attack, Faiza went directly to Lashkar leader Hafiz Saeed – the Professor – and asked for help in saving their troubled marriage. Hafiz Saeed then paid a visit to Headley, who downplayed the matter and explained that he had been busy with his Lashkar duties and hadn’t had much time to take care of wife number two.

It’s uncertain whether Hafiz Saeed’s involvement was the deciding factor. What is certain is that Faiza and Headley got back together again, and that they watched the terrorist attack in Mumbai together on Headley’s TV in their house in Lahore.

But there’s no evidence that Headley ever revealed his role to her.

Excerpted with permission from The Mind of a Terrorist: The Strange Case of David Headley, Kaare Sørensen, translated from the Danish by Cory Klingsporn, Penguin Books.

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