CHICAGO - An American who scouted targets for the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, pleaded guilty in court on Thursday to a dozen criminal charges.
David Coleman Headley, arrested in October in a Chicago airport, agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and U.S. intelligence agencies in exchange for dropping the death penalty.
Headley, 49, considered one of the most senior terror operatives in the U.S., will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
At Thursday's hearing, Headley detailed his role in the Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.
After attending training camps run by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terror group, Headley made five trips to Mumbai, using the name Daood Gilani, to scout out targets for the attack.
"Headley's confession and his admission to all the 12 charges against him has substantiated our claim that the Lashkar-e-Taiba was directly behind the attacks," India's public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told The Times of India on Friday.
In Mumbai, Headley videotaped possible targets and used a global-positioning device to help the terrorists plan the four-pronged attacks on the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, a train station and a Jewish cultural center.
Headley also told the court of his plot to kill employees at a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in 2005.
According to his testimony, Headley met with retired Pakistani military officer Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed and with Ilyas Kashmiri, who worked directly with senior al-Qaeda operatives.
Kashmiri passed on instructions from al-Qaeda to behead the newspaper employees and toss their heads out the window to achieve the maximum effect on the Danish government.
Part of the plea bargain includes Headley's continuing cooperation with U.S. intelligence agents in exchange for not being extradited to India, Denmark or Pakistan.
According to his attorney, Headley has cooperated with the authorities since his arrest on October 3 and is providing information that could potentially thwart future attacks by al-Qaeda operatives.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.