A former Philadelphia tavern operator-turned-terror suspect played a key role in planning last year's deadly assaults in Mumbai, India, according to new federal charges.

David Coleman Headley, 49, who was brought to Philadelphia from Pakistan as a teenager, spent nearly two years scouting locations that figured in the attacks on targets including the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels, a cafe, and a Jewish center, federal authorities say.

Headley turned over the information to a Pakistani extremist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Good, a group primarily focused on separating the Kashmir region from India.

Ten Lashkar-trained commandos landed in Mumbai last year and carried out three days of attacks with rifles, grenades, and bombs, killing 166 people, including six Americans.

Headley has been in jail since October, charged with plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that angered Muslims by printing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad. That attack never occurred.

Also yesterday, prosecutors unsealed charges against Abdur Rehman, a retired major in the Pakistani military. He is accused of participating in the Denmark conspiracy.

A third man, Tahawwur Hussain Rana of Chicago, a classmate of Headley's at a Pakistan military academy, also was arrested in October in connection with the alleged Denmark plot.

Headley has been cooperating with the investigation into both the India and Denmark terror plans, his lawyer and federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they believed the arrests were unraveling a significant terror network that managed to build ties to operatives in the United States. They are continuing to share tips and leads with investigators in other countries as they pursue other suspects.

"This investigation remains active and ongoing," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

An affidavit says Headley began talking to the FBI after his Oct. 3 arrest at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. He was preparing to board a plane to Philadelphia, a planned stopover on a trip to Pakistan.

'Pretty serious'

"We're looking at the evidence," said Chicago defense attorney John Theis, declining to comment on the substance of the charges against Headley. "These are pretty serious allegations involving pretty serious conduct."

The Mumbai charges, filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago, added a chilling new dimension to the already strange saga of Headley - born Daood Gilani, the son of a prominent Pakistani broadcaster and a striking Main Line woman with a taste for adventure.

A U.S. citizen, Gilani attended Lashkar training camps beginning in February 2002. In 2006, after learning that the organization wanted him to perform surveillance in India, he changed his name to Headley in Philadelphia so he could travel more easily, authorities say.

Posing as a representative of an immigration-services business, Headley began traveling to Mumbai in September 2006, the charges say.

He made five extended trips, shooting videos of a number of public places, including some eventual targets of the attacks: the Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels, the Leopold Cafe, the Nariman House synagogue and Jewish center, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station.

'Old-fashioned'

He scouted other places that were not attacked, including the National Defence College in India. After the trips, he would return to Pakistan and drop off photos and videos.

In April 2008, seven months before the attacks, Headley carried out Lashkar instructions to take boat trips in and around Mumbai harbor to scout for potential landing sites; the Lashkar terror squads later entered the city by rafts.

Working with another Pakistani extremist organization, Headley also took repeated trips to Copenhagen to scout out the offices of the newspaper that printed the offending cartoon. The original plan was to blow up the building, but Headley said he argued for killing the cartoonist and an editor instead.

"Call me old-fashioned, but I feel disposed toward violence for the offending parties," he wrote in a computer message to his old classmates at the military academy, the charges say.

Headley was born in 1960 in Washington to Serrill Headley, who grew up in Bryn Mawr, and Syed Saleem Gilani. Headley married Gilani at age 19, according to an Inquirer story. After Gilani's job in Washington ended, the couple returned to Pakistan.

The couple divorced. Headley married and later divorced a second Pakistani - an executive - before returning to Philadelphia. After several attempts, she was able to get her son Daood out of Pakistan in the 1970s and later bought and renovated a pub at 56 S. Second St. that she called the Khyber Pass. She died last year.

The boy - described by family friends as sullen but handsome, with one blue eye and one brownish-green - had trouble adjusting to life in the States after his conservative upbringing in Pakistan, friends said.

Headley later took over the bar but drove it into bankruptcy. He also took accounting classes at the Community College of Philadelphia in the 1990s but did not earn a degree, and he managed video stores for a time in Philadelphia and New York.

In 1998, he was sentenced to 15 months in jail in New York for smuggling heroin from Pakistan.

The current case has been huge news in India, with media chasing scraps of information about Gilani's comings and goings.

On Saturday, Danyal Gilani, a spokesman for the Pakistani prime minister, confirmed that Headley is his half-brother, but said he had little contact with him since 2002. He last saw him at his father's funeral in 2008, according to a report in the Times of India.

He said his family was not related to the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani. The prime minister did visit his house after his father's death last year to offer condolences, he said.

"This he did out of courtesy because I was working as his [public-relations officer] and also because my father was a renowned broadcaster and a known personality of his time," Danyal Gilani said. "At that time, Daood [Gilani] was not in Pakistan."

Headley was charged with providing support to foreign terrorist plots and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India. He could face life in prison or the death penalty.

Contact staff writer Joseph Tanfani at 215-854-2684 or jtanfani@phillynews.com.
Staff writer John Shiffman and wire services contributed to this article.