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JeM man who handled Pathankot attackers has fled Pakistan: JIT official

world Updated: Jun 16, 2016 17:09 IST

An Indian soldier stands guard inside the Pathankot airbase, which was attacked by members of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed in January. (HT Photo)

The Jaish-e-Mohammed leader who gave directions over phone to the terrorists during the attack on Pathankot airbase has reportedly fled from Pakistan to Afghanistan, an official said.

“The alleged JeM handler who communicated by telephone more than two dozen times with the terrorists in Pathankot, before they carried out the attack on the airbase on January 2, has managed to cross into Afghan border,” a member of the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the attack told PTI on Thursday.

He said the JeM handler, who is in his late 20s, was in the tribal area of Pakistan when he communicated about 18 times with the terrorists.

Read: Pakistan unconvinced by India’s evidence on Pathankot attack

“The law enforcement agencies tried to trace him (in the tribal belt) but there are reports that he managed to escape to Afghanistan,” he said, without disclosing the JeM leader’s identity.

During his interrogation, JeM chief Masood Azhar claimed the handler of the Pathankot operation had quit the organisation sometime ago.

“Azhar disowns the JeM handler (to prove his innocence),” said another source privy to the development.

He said investigation agencies have been under “immense pressure” from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to thoroughly probe the matter and come up with the “true facts” of the Pathankot incident.

Although the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Police registered an FIR against the alleged attackers of the Pathankot airbase and their abettors, not a single person has been charged.

The FIR was registered in the CTD police station in Gujranwala under sections 302, 324 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code, and sections 7 and 21-I of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The FIR says India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval informed authorities that the four attackers had come from Pakistan and had “probably crossed the border adjacent to the Pathankot general area”.

Doval said the terrorists made phone calls to cell phones and belonged to a proscribed organisation.

Five terrorists and seven Indian military personnel were killed in a gun battle at the Pathankot airbase. The attack occurred just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore to wish Sharif on his birthday on December 25 and the occasion of his granddaughter’s wedding – a move that appeared to promise better ties between the two countries in future.