ATbar Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Jewish problem

Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Jewish problem

16/04/2010 | by Berman, Eran  

Published by courtesy of CST


For years, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has increasingly demonstrated violent global ambitions beyond the South Asian theatre; however, the antisemitic component to its target selection has only more recently been demonstrated. LeT’s infamous information gatherer, David Coleman Headley, pleaded guilty in the United States in March 2010 to all twelve charges brought against him. He played a key role in planning and assisting LeT’s three-day siege of the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008, and LeT’s (foiled) plot to attack personnel and property of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.[1] The Mumbai attack claimed the lives of nearly 200 people, at least one of whom was a British national. Under Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000, LeT is one of ten or so Kashmiri-oriented jihadist groups that are included on the Home Office list of proscribed terrorist organisations in the UK.[2]

Both the Mumbai and Denmark plots included an alarming Jewish focus: Headley, acting on instruction from Lashkar handlers, conducted extensive pre-operational hostile reconnaissance not only on landmark sites but also on Jewish facilities across India and in Denmark. In the Mumbai attacks, of course, two terrorists specifically targeted the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch Centre and murdered six Jews in that facility. Headley’s guilty plea, then, warrants a review of LeT’s antisemitic motivations and the implications for the security of Jewish communities in the UK and abroad.


The symbol of Lashkar-e-Taiba

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s anti-Jewish complex

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has referred to itself as the “Army of Madinah” in English-language publications, has demonstrated a willingness and ability to target and attack Western and Jewish institutions.[3] In February 2010, US Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair, after noting LeT’s growing anti-Western agenda and explaining the threat potential of LeT “placing Western targets in Europe in its sights”, emphasized security concerns over “LT’s plotting against India and willingness to attack Jewish interests and locations visited by Westerners”.[4] Lashkar-e-Taiba’s antisemitism is embedded within its core Islamist ideology, which strives for the establishment of a global caliphate and which advocates violent global jihad as the means to achieve this goal. LeT has a longstanding relationship with Al-Qaeda, and it was among the signatories to Osama Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa that was issued to mark the creation of the “World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders” – a breathtaking case of codifying antisemitism in the very name of the group.[5]

In a sense, LeT follows the common trait of radical Islamists to claim that Jewish or “infidel” conspiracies are seeking to undermine Islam and Muslims. One of its English-language Taiba Bulletins decried that:

The world of non-believers is united against Islam. This collaboration would prove to be the final destruction of the anti-Muslim elements…Jews and the Crusaders and Hindu Brahmans would die their own trap. Islam will be the sole dominating force in the world.[6]

The LeT’s parent group, Markaz Dawa wal-Irshad (now known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa – JuD), described the threat to Muslims in global terms: “Wherever you look, you will find that non-believers are everywhere trying to enslave Muslims and destroy them”.[7] Qandeel Siddique, a research consultant at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, corroborates this fact: “Since LeT’s inception, its leaders have created a master-slave picture where Hindus, Jews and Christians, are seen ‘trying to enslave Muslims and destroy them’”.[8]

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the longstanding leader of LeT’s parent group, has described Muslims’ “subjugation to the West” as being their utmost problem.[9] And he has also stated that, “Yahood [Jews] and the Hunood [Hindus] are two sides of the same coin”[10]. On a separate occasion, in February 2001, Saeed issued the violent corollary of this statement: “Jihad will continue until the Jews and Hindus throughout the globe meet their worst end”.[11] The operative words here are “throughout the globe”, signifying clearly the international dimension of the cosmic conflict in Lashkar’s worldview.

LeT has also blended its anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric, making no distinctions. One of Lashkar’s pamphlets, “Why Are We Waging Jihad”, explains that its purpose is to obliterate the “existential enemies of Islam”, which are thought to be the United States, India and Israel.[12] In fact, when the Pakistani government took over the JuD headquarters in Muridke, demonstrators were heard chanting “Death to Israel and Jews” and “Death to America”.[13] Additionally, the March 2007 issue of Bab al-Islam, the JuD’s monthly publication, included a photograph of the Al-Aqsa Mosque with the accompanying text reading, “The Jewish people, frightening plans for the Al-Aqsa mosque”, a false claim of Jewish plots to destroy the site.[14] In the same vein, Abdur Rahman Makki, one of Markaz/JuD’s founders, told the LeT Annual Congregation in 1999 that the, “Jewish occupation of Israel is unjustifiable for the Jews Have nothing to do with the Holy Mosque” (presumably a reference to the Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount). He continued to state that Mohammed and his companions “cleansed this area of Jews”.[15]

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s antisemitic targeting: the Chabad House in Mumbai

India Shooting Holtzberg

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holzberg, murdered in the Mumbai terror attacks

The impact of LeT’s antisemitic intentionality was brutally demonstrated in November 2008 in Mumbai. The group carefully selected the Chabad-Lubavitch Centre in Nariman House, a synagogue and Jewish centre located in an obscure backstreet of the city, and murdered six Jews in the building. The centre was one of about eleven primary targets selected, and it was almost immediately attacked on the first day of the terror assault. Two out of the ten terrorists – constituting 20 percent [16] of the attackers’ capacity – was directed away from other major targets and was focused specifically on Nariman House. Among the phone conversations Indian intelligence intercepted between the terrorists and their controllers in Pakistan, the LeT handler speaking to one of the attackers in the Chabad centre emphasised the importance of this specific target: “As I told you, every person you kill where you are is worth 50 of the ones killed elsewhere”.[17]

According to the Orthodox Jewish newspaper Hamodia (4 December 2008), Ajmal Kassab, the only terrorist to survive the attack, claimed the two terrorists who laid siege to the Chabad House had previously stayed there under the guise of Malaysian students. Kasab also claimed that the LeT operatives were instructed to target the Chabad House and Israelis “to avenge the atrocities on Palestinians”.[18] LeT’s conflation of Israelis and Jews, and its conspiratorial assumption that their enemies are Jews when they are not, mean that if LeT ascribes a strategic benefit in trying to attack Israelis, they are as likely as not to attack Jews rather than official Israeli installations. Ultimately, targeting Jews or Jewish facilities as “local agents” of Israel, and then attacking them for the alleged behaviour of the Israeli government, is fundamentally an antisemitic notion.

 chabad house

The inside of Chabad House after the attack

David Headley’s hostile surveillance of Chabad Houses in India, 2006-09

Having attended LeT training camps on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005, David Coleman Headley played a central role in the preparatory stages for the 2008 attack.[19] He acted as a primary information gatherer and attack planner, travelling to Mumbai to conduct extensive surveillance of targets for some time prior to the attack. (In February 2006, he changed his name from Daood Gilani “in order to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani”.[20]) Between 2006 and 2008, he made five extended trips to Mumbai (September 2006, February and September 2007,  April and July 2008), “each time making videotapes of various potential targets, including those attacked in November 2008” and then travelled to Pakistan to share his findings with his co-conspirators and devise attack plans.[21] In performing surveillance around July 2008, he scoped out locations such as the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Hotels – and the Chabad House.[22] In March 2009, he also “made a sixth trip to India to conduct additional surveillance, including of the National Defense College in Delhi, and of Chabad Houses in several cities”.[23]

The Times of India has also reported that Headley performed hostile surveillance on multiple sites throughout India, including synagogues in five Indian cities: Pushkar, Goa, Pune, Mumbai and Paharganj (in Delhi).[24] (Headley also “recced” the El Al office in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade neighbourhood sometime in 2009.[25]) This was allegedly done as part of a LeT plot to attack them simultaneously. Headley is said to have posed as a Jew on numerous occasions in order to improve his information collection efforts, and he specifically stayed in hotel rooms close to Chabad Houses.[26] In Pushkar, he insisted on staying in a room opposite a synagogue claiming that he was Jewish and explaining that he “wanted holy sight”.

After the 13 February 2010 terror attack at the Germany Bakery in Pune, India, which killed 17 people and injured nearly 60, speculation emerged regarding the possibility that the intended target was once again the local Chabad House.[27] The café-bakery is located several dozen yards away from the Chabad House and close to the Osho Ashram. Indian authorities claimed that Headley had previously “recced” both locations.[28] Initial concerns of Headley gathering information on the ashram, however, were later discounted, and he allegedly focused specifically on the Chabad House. Headley may have stayed in a hotel close to the German Bakery but is not believed to have performed surveillance on it.[29] Assessments vary over whether Chabad was or was not the intended target. According to Ashok Chavan, the chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra:

There were intelligence inputs that the Chabad House in Pune could be one of the possible target sites of the terrorists. There was adequate security near the Chabad House. Since the attackers could not break the security, they targeted the German Bakery.[30]

David Headley’s surveillance of a synagogue in Denmark, 2009

Headley and his accomplice, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian citizen, were arrested finally in Chicago in October 2009 for their role in another plot, codenamed the “Mickey Mouse Project”, against Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten. This involved a plan to attack two different facilities of the newspaper (Copenhagen and Arahus) and to assassinate Flemming Rose, the newspaper’s cultural editor, and Kurt Westergaard, the newspaper’s cartoonist, for their role in the publication of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in 2005. In an internet discussion group message Headley posted in October 2008, he stated that, “I feel disposed towards violence for the offending parties”, a reference to the newspaper employees.[31] Headley also performed surveillance on a Copenhagen synagogue close to Jyllands-Posten’s office under instructions from an unnamed influential figure in LeT who believed (wrongly) that Rose was Jewish and that he attended that synagogue (again, wrongly). The plot was devised in conjunction with LeT and Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), another Kashmiri terrorist group banned in Britain. According to the US Department of Justice, when Headley was arrested trying to board a flight out of Chicago, his luggage included surveillance videos of the Jyllands-Posten office and military barracks, and he possessed a book titled How to Pray Like a Jew.

The affidavit specifies:

With respect to his activities in Denmark, HEADLEY stated that he conducted surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Arhus, Denmark, in preparation for an attack [...] HEADLEY also stated that he conducted surveillance of Danish troops posted nearby, as well as of a nearby synagogue. HEADLEY stated that the surveillance of the Danish troops was conducted because they were posted near the newspaper and might serve as a reaction force in the event of an attack. He also said that he conducted the surveillance of the synagogue at the direction of Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A, whom HEADLEY described as being under the mistaken belief that Rose was Jewish.[32]

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s UK connections

Although Headley may not have travelled to the UK in relation to these plots, the links of LeT and other Kashmiri extremist groups in the UK have existed since at least the 1990s. Such connections run the gamut from fundraising[33], to participating in or encouraging others to participate in LeT camps, to providing material support for LeT terrorism.  LeT is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000.[34]

Regarding participation in terrorism, Mohammed Ajmal Khan, for example, was jailed in the UK for nine years in 2006 for his role in “directing a terrorist organisation”, namely LeT, between 29 March 2001 and 1 March 2005. This included buying equipment such as weapons on behalf of LeT. Additionally, British-born terrorists Shazad Tanweer[35], Omar Khaym[36], Dhiren Barot[37] and Richard Reid (aka, the Shoe Bomber)[38] all received training in LeT camps. And since the 1990s, LeT is also reported to have deployed agents to Western countries – with the most active being in the UK – to fundraise and recruit.[39] Indeed, Indian authorities have accused (Mohammed) Raheel Sheikh, who reportedly moved to Britain in 2006, of having a financial role in the July 2006 and November 2008 attacks in Mumbai and was hiding in Birmingham, although this has not been proven.[40]

With respect to an antisemitic component, two cases are especially prominent. Omar Khaym, who was convicted with four others for their role in the fertilizer bomb plot, considered numerous targets, including the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London. Yet, authorities also found in Khyam’s home a twelve-page list of British synagogues, including in London and Manchester. In the case of Dhiren Barot, he and his co-conspirators planned a series of violent attacks in the US and UK. The US plot focused on American financial institutions and Jewish buildings. In conducting hostile reconnaissance in New York in 2000 and 2001, Barot filmed entrances to buildings, barriers, security cameras, including Jewish buildings and synagogues.[41] (One of Barot’s co-conspirators, Junade Feroze, “came into contact with Barot through the struggle for independence in Kashmir” and spent time between 1999 and 2001 receiving training; but it is not known whether this was at a LeT camp.[42])


Lashkar-e-Taiba certainly poses a significant threat to Western interests. While it primarily focuses its attacks in South Asia, the group has demonstrated an international reach and ambition. Individuals with links to LeT have been arrested in Canada, France, the US, Australia and others; and in February 2010, an Australian court convicted five men, one of whom trained with LeT, for plotting a terrorist act in Sydney.[43] Yet, the case of David Headley, along with LeT-linked British terror plotters and other violent jihadist groups, offer chilling case studies of the importance they attach to attacking Jewish interests, as well as to performing pre-operational hostile surveillance to achieve their objectives. Such reconnaissance, of course, constitutes a genuine threat to all communities. In Britain, the Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) of the Metropolitan Police has established Operation Lightning to protect the country from precisely this kind of suspicious activity. Ultimately, though, such threats offer a sober reminder of the important role that alert citizens, security guards and police play in the fight against terrorism.  

*Author is Researcher at the Jewish Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom




[3] For detailed general threat assessments on LeT:;;


[5] E. Blanche, “Lashkar-e Tayyiba broades its jihad”, Jane’s Terrrorism & Security Monitor, September 2004, p. 13

[6] Taiba Bulletin, 21 October 2001





[11] Taiba Bulletin, 27 Feb 2001

[12] Quoted in


[14], pg 15

[15] Annual Congregation 1999 of Lashkar-e-Taiba, “Mujahideen will continue Jihad to wipe out oppression and terrorism”, Voice of Islam, December 1999, (link no longer available)


[17] Terror in Mumbai, Dispatches (Channel 4), 29 June 2009: and


[19], pg 3-4

[20] US Department of Justice Press Release (09-1304),


[22], pg 8

[23] and Plea pg 9









[32], Paragraph 20, Page 7




[36]; , Page 11