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A profile of Maulana Masood Azhar

world Updated: Dec 09, 2008 13:39 IST

Maulana Masood Azhar, put under house arrest by Pakistan authorities on Tuesday, in an attempt to crack down militant organizations, is a religious leader who supports Muslim separatists fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Early days

Born in 1968 in Bahawalpur, in the central Pakistani province of Punjab, Maulana Azhar heads Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is allegedly involved in slew of attacks in India that even include the attack on the parliament in December 2001.

He got his early education from Jamia Uloom-i-Islami, near Karachi, which is considered as one of the leading religious universities of Pakistan.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad founder, after finishing his education joined the institute as a teacher and is believed to have written several books and even headed a editorial team of a magazine.

Maulana Masood Azhar's nefarious activities

He was arrested by India in 1994 for being a member of Harkat-ul Mujahideen-a militant group who were active in Kashmir.

Azhar was later freed by Indian authorities along with two other terrorists in exchange for passengers of an Indian Airlines flight IC814 hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999.

Soon after his release, Maulana Masood Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2000.

And in December 2001, Azhar's organization, Jaish-e-Mohammad, was accused of a string of deadly attacks on Indian targets, including one on the Parliament in Delhi.

During the attack, Azhar was in Pakistan and detained by Pakistan authorities in connection with the attack on India Parliament, but could not be formally charged for the same.

Thus, the Lahore High Court ordered an end to his house arrest on December 14, 2002.

Azhar's relation with the Pakistani establishment started deteriorating in the wake of American allegations about his Al-Qaida links and because of the belief that he had been providing logistical support to fugitive Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Following the January 2002 kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl by Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, a close aide of Azhar, the US had sought the custody of the Jaish chief, saying authorities wanted to file charges against him for his involvement in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight, which had an American citizen on board.

However, Pakistani authorities had turned down the US demand, saying Azhar was not a hijacker and his incarceration in India had been "illegal".

And now because of all these activities, Maulana Masood Azhar's name features on India's most wanted list of 20 people that it wants Pakistan to hand it over to them.