In rapt attention, five members of a Pakistani investigation team listened to an audio clip that India believes is irrefutable proof of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad’s (JeM) links to the attack on the Pathankot airbase.
The audio clip purportedly contains the voice of Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar -- brother of JeM leader Maulana Masood Azhar -- claiming to have send ‘mujahideen’ (holy warriors) to attack the Pathankot airbase and making fun of India’s response.
“They listened attentively…did not question the evidence provided by us,” said Sharad Kumar, the chief of India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Kumar was present when the clip was played for the Pakistani team on Monday. The team visited the airbase on Tuesday as part of its investigations into the attack that left eight people including seven security personnel dead. Six terrorists were also killed during the siege of the strategic airbase in January.
India blames JeM for the attack that derailed proposed talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries.
Asghar is also a prime accused in the hijacking of flight Indian Airlines IC-814 to Kandahar in December 1999. The passengers and crew were released only after India released three top terrorists including Masood Azhar.
“The audio clip of Rauf is an important part of the evidence gathered by NIA during its probe into the January 2 airbase attack as it shows Jaish owning up responsibility of sending attackers,” Kumar said.
The clip was uploaded on a Jaish-linked website ‘rangonoor.com’. Jaish also uses another website ‘alqalamonline.com’ for its jehadi propaganda. Write-ups by one ‘Saadi’ which Indian investigators believe to be a pen name of Masood Azhar, appear regularly on alqalamonline.com.
During the probe, the NIA found that both the websites are hosted on a service provider called ‘siteground.com’ in Pakistan and a credit card used to payment.
The card is in the name of Nasim Ahmad, who we believe is a frontman of the Jaish chief and his brother Rauf,” said an investigator on the condition of anonymity.
Kumar said the NIA will seek access to Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Rauf besides their voice samples.
“We would also like to visit Bahawalpur, where Jaish is headquartered. We expect Pakistan will agree to our demand,” Kumar added.
India has already provided intercepted phone calls purported to have been made by the Pathankot attackers to family members and handlers based in Pakistan.
Kumar said that the NIA will seek details of Pakistan’s probe into the attacks during Wednesday’s talks with Islamabad’s joint investigation team.
“If they want access to (Punjab police official) Salwinder Singh and his associates, we are ready for that on Thursday. But our officials will examine them on the questions asked by the JIT,” added Kumar.
The Gurdaspur superintendent had claimed that a group of terrorists – who later attacked the airbase – had abducted him and his friend and his official vehicle snatched on December 31.