India is sending a team of security officials to Dhaka to interrogate Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operative Belal Mandal, who has allegedly confessed to having played a key role in the hijacking of Air India flight IC-814 in 1999.
Mandal was caught by the Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh’s anti-terror force, on Sunday with four other suspected JeM operatives — one a Pakistani national.
IC-814 was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar, Afghanistan, on December 24, 1999. After seven days, the then NDA government released three militants, including Maulana Masood Azhar — who went on to found the JeM — in exchange for the hostages on board.
Home Ministry officials, who described Mandal as a “wanted man” in India in four terror-related cases — including the plan to plant bombs in Surat and Bangalore — however, said he didn’t figure in the list of suspects in the hijack case.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said reports on Mandal’s role in the IC-814 hijack might be a bit “exaggerated”. A ministry official said: “His name did not come up during investigations by the CBI.”
But there could be aspects to the hijack that investigators have not yet been able to unearth. “We did not know about the (David) Headley connection to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks till he was caught by the US. So, let’s wait and see,” a government official said.
“We should be able to get him if investigators in Bangladesh don’t want him for a crime committed there,” a government official said.
Mandal, from the north Bangladeshi town of Shylet, has an Indian wife from West Bengal.