November 22, 2009
A Terror Suspect With Feet in East and West
Raised by his father in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, Mr. Headley arrived back here at 17 to live with his American mother, a former socialite who ran a bar called the
Today, Mr. Headley is an Islamic fundamentalist who once liked to get high. He has a traditional Pakistani wife, who lives with their children in Chicago, but also an American girlfriend — a makeup artist in
Mr. Headley, an American citizen, is accused of being the lead operative in a loose-knit group of militants plotting revenge against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The indictment against him portrays a man who moved easily between different worlds. The profile that has emerged of him since his arrest, however, suggests that Mr. Headley felt pulled between two cultures and ultimately gravitated toward an extremist Islamic one.
“Some of us are saying that ‘Terrorism’ is the weapon of the cowardly,” Mr. Headley wrote in an e-mail message to his high school classmates last February. “I will say that you may call it barbaric or immoral or cruel, but never cowardly.”
He added, “Courage is, by and large, exclusive to the Muslim nation.”
Mr. Headley’s e-mail messages, including many that defended beheadings and suicide bombings as heroic, are among the evidence in the government’s case against him and his accused co-conspirator, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who was born in
The men, who became close friends in a military academy outside
Since then, the investigation has widened beyond
Mr. Headley, 49, and Mr. Rana, 48, stand out from the young, poor extremists from fundamentalist Islamic schools who strike targets in or close to their homelands. Instead, their privileged backgrounds, extensive travel and bouts of culture shock make them more like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the Sept. 11 attacks, who attended college in the United States, and Mohammed Atta, one of the lead hijackers.
Mr. Rana’s father is a former principal of a high school outside
Trained as a physician, Mr. Rana immigrated to
He and his family live in a small brick house on the North Side with a huge satellite dish on the roof. Neighbors described Mr. Rana as a recluse who rarely spoke to anyone and whose children never played with others on the street.
“He seemed very committed to his Islamic religion,” said William Rodosky, who once managed Mr. Rana’s slaughterhouse, in Kinsman,
Mr. Rodosky echoed the views of several others who knew and did business with Mr. Rana when he said he was “shocked about the terrorism charges.”
“As far as I knew, he was very nice man and a very good businessman,” Mr. Rodosky said.
But Mr. Headley did not draw the same expressions of shock. Those who knew him paint a more troubled image.
“Most people have contradictions in their lives, but they learn to reconcile them,” said William Headley, an uncle who owns a day care center in
Daood Sayed Gilani was born in
In 1960, the couple and their infant son, Daood, left the United States bound for England aboard the ship America, and from there went on to Lahore. But the marriage quickly soured, friends said, as Mr. Gilani immersed himself in the traditions of his homeland and his bride refused to submit to them.
After Ms. Headley left Mr. Gilani and her son and a daughter, Syedah, in
She arrived back in
“He has never been alone with, much less had a date with, a girl, except the servant girls of his household,” the article said, referring to the teenage Daood Gilani. “But he has just this day found a cricket team to join. And he has just this day, after watching American TV, said to his mother in his soft Urdu-English that she is to him like the Bionic Woman.”
According to family friends, the teenager soon rebelled against his mother’s heavy drinking and multiple sexual relationships by engaging in the same behavior.
“Those were the days when girls, weed, and whatever, were readily available,” Jay Wilson, who worked at the Khyber Pass, wrote in an e-mail message from
Later, said Lorenzo Lacovara, another former worker at the bar, Daood Gilani began expressing anger at all non-Muslims.
“He would clearly state he had contempt for infidels,” Mr. Lacovara said in a telephone interview from
Ms. Headley tried to help her son straighten out his life. In 1985, she put him in charge of the
Ms. Headley embarked on her third marriage, and her son set off for
In 1998, Mr. Gilani, then 38, was convicted of conspiring to smuggle heroin into the country from
In 2006, he changed his name to David Headley, apparently to make border crossings between the
There, the family lived in a small second-floor apartment. Mr. Headley claimed to work for Mr. Rana’s immigration agency.
The two men attended the Jame Masjid mosque on Fridays, then stopped at the nearby Zam Zamrestaurant to eat and talk politics. Cricket, neighbors said, was their passion.
But Mr. Headley never seemed to fully fit in. Masood Qadir, who sometimes watched cricket with him, said he was “different” and kept mostly to himself.
E-mail messages show, however, that Mr. Headley stayed in regular contact with classmates from the military high school he attended in
Earlier this year, Mr. Headley complained about “NATO criminal vermin dropping 22,000 lbs bombs on unsuspecting, unarmed Afghan villagers” or “napalming southeast Asian farmers.” Writing about
And in an e-mail message defending the beheading of a Polish engineer by the Taliban in
Reporting was contributed by Puk Damsgard in Islamabad, Pakistan; Emma Graves Fitzsimmons in Chicago; Nate Schweber and John Eligon in New York; and Ian Austen in Ottawa. Research was contributed by Barclay Walsh in
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs