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Diabetes ground Lashkar India chief

Azam Cheema, chief of LeT’s India operations and one of the brains behind the Mumbai terror attacks, has been hospitalised due to severe diabetes, reports Tushar Srivastava.

delhi Updated: Dec 26, 2008 00:38 IST
Tushar Srivastava

Azam Cheema, chief of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s (LeT) India operations (except Kashmir) and one of the brains behind the Mumbai terror attacks is out of commission. No, he has not been detained by Pakistan authorities on India’s behest, he has been hospitalised due to severe diabetes.

Part of the core group of LeT, Cheema was fully aware of the terrorist outfit’s plans to carry out the Mumbai attacks. Muzammil, the Lashkar commander named by Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist to be captured alive in the Mumbai attacks, with whom the terrorist were in touch throughout the operations, reports to Cheema, who has been suffering from severe diabetes for a long time.

Following 26/11, there had been a flurry of exchanges on the Lashkar network, kept under close tab by Indian intelligence agencies. It was in one of these intercepts that intelligence agencies realised that Abu al-Qama, chief of Lashkar’s operations for Kashmir, has also been asked to look after its operations for the rest of the country.

Subsequent intercepts revealed that Cheema was in bad shape. Intelligence officials told the Hindustan Times that Cheema had to be removed from operations a few days after the Mumbai attacks.

Cheema is the head of LeT’s India operations branch — known as Dasta Mohammad bin Qasim — and is subject of an Interpol red-corner notice (A-612-4-2004). He is one of 40 terrorists whom India wants extradited from Pakistan.

The Interpol notice says 55-year-old Cheema, a Pakistani national, is wanted for a conspiracy to import consignment of illegal arms and explosives into India.

In India, Cheema alias Babaji is named as an absconder and a key conspirator by the Mumbai police in the serial blasts case of July 2006.