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American Sentenced To 35 Years For Role In Mumbai Attack

David Coleman Headley, whose scouting missions were central to the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, was sentenced to 35 years in prison today.

According to the AP, one American woman injured during the attacks that killed 160 people testified that because of Coleman, she knew the "sound of life leaving a 13-year-old child."

"I don't have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he's a changed person and believes in the American way of life," US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said before handing down the sentence.

The U.S. government argued that life in prison was appropriate for Coleman, but they only sought 30 to 35 years in prison because Headley cooperated.

Here's how the Justice Department explains it in a press release:

"In pleading guilty and later testifying for the government at the trial of a co-defendant, Headley admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar e Tayyiba, a terrorist organization operating in that country, on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005. In late 2005, Headley received instructions from three members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times leading up to the Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed approximately 164 people, including six Americans, and wounded hundreds more. Headley's plea agreement in March 2010 stated that he "has provided substantial assistance to the criminal investigation, and also has provided information of significant intelligence value."

"In consideration of Headley's past cooperation and anticipated future cooperation, which would include debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence and national security information, as well as testifying in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory, the Attorney General of the United States authorized the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago not to seek the death penalty."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.