ISI pushed Jaish for intel on IAF bases after Balakot

The audacious February 14 strike by the Jaish in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama killed 40 Indian security personnel, triggered the IAF action against the terror camp deep inside Pakistan 12 days later, resulted in a dogfight between fighter jets of the two nations on February 27, and brought them on the brink of a war.
The terrorists involved in the Pulwama attack, Umar Farooq, Sameer Ahmad Dar and Adil Ahmad Dar(ANI photo)
The terrorists involved in the Pulwama attack, Umar Farooq, Sameer Ahmad Dar and Adil Ahmad Dar(ANI photo)
Updated on Aug 26, 2020 08:40 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByNeeraj Chauhan

Around the time New Delhi and Islamabad scrambled fighter jets at their borders following India’s airstrike on a terror camp in Balakot in February last year, Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) asked Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) operatives in Jammu and Kashmir to find out and pass on information on the location of Indian Air Force (IAF) bases, according to a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Pulwama terror attack case on Tuesday.

The audacious February 14 strike by the Jaish in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama killed 40 Indian security personnel, triggered the IAF action against the terror camp deep inside Pakistan 12 days later, resulted in a dogfight between fighter jets of the two nations on February 27, and brought them on the brink of a war.

In its 13,500-page charge sheet filed in a special NIA court in Jammu, NIA named 19 people, including Jaish leader Masood Azhar and four of his relatives, for planning and carrying out the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy at the behest of Pakistan. Of the 19, six are dead, three are absconding, and seven have been arrested. Azhar and his two brothers are believed to be in Pakistan.

According to the charge sheet, Azhar’s 24-year-old nephew Mohammad Umar Farooq was sent to Kashmir in 2018 to execute the bombing. Farooq, who was killed in an encounter by security forces on March 29, 2019, was in constant touch with Azhar’s brothers Abdul Rouf Asghar Alvi and Ammar Alvi, and received directions from them before, during and after the attack, the charge sheet said. It also included transcripts of the chats between them.

Alvi told Farooq, the key figure behind the blasts, during one of these chats after the Balakot strike that ISI wanted Jaish operatives on the Indian side to find out about IAF’s bases from where the fighter jets were being scrambled, said an official who asked not to be named, sharing details of the charge sheet.

NIA’s charge sheet also said Jaish planned to carry out a second suicide attack after the Pulwama bombing, but aborted its plans due to international pressure for action against the Pakistan-based terror group.

“Mufti (a reference to Azhar) has asked for the (second) attack to be put on hold,” read a message received by Farooq from Pakistan, according to the agency.

“The Pakistan-based leadership of Masood Azhar, Asghar, and Ammar Alvi, alias Chota Masood, were continuously giving directions and guidance to the JeM terrorists (who infiltrated into India) both before and after the attack. They also planned to carry out another suicide attack, which was averted due to Balakot strikes and due to the killing of main conspirator Umar Farooq by the security forces,” said NIA spokesperson Sonia Narang, who was involved in the investigation into the case.

Farooq, according to NIA, was the son of Azhar’s younger brother Ibrahim Athar. Athar and four others hijacked the IC-814 Indian Airlines flight in December 1999, seeking Azhar’s release. Azhar was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for the 155 passengers of the hijacked aircraft, and went on to found the Jaish in 2000.

Farooq infiltrated into India using a tunnel in the Jammu-Samba sector in April 2018, and took over as the Jaish commander of Pulwama, according to the agency. Since then, he spent most of his time planning, arranging for logistics and convincing the suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar.

Another Pakistani terrorist related to Azhar’s family, 25-year-old Mohammad Ismail, alias Saifullah, who is currently said to be hiding in the Kashmir valley, infiltrated along with Farooq. He is believed to be heading the Jaish in the Valley.

“After infiltrating into India, Umar Farooq took over as Jaish-e-Mohammad commander of Pulwama and along with his Pakistani compatriots — Kamran Ali, Ismail, Qari Yasir — and local associates Sameer Dar and Adil Ahmad Dar planned and prepared for the attack on security forces using IEDs,” Narang said.

“Investigation also revealed a well-crafted mechanism by Pakistani establishment to push terrorists into the Indian territory from the launch pads located in Shakargarh (Pakistan) opposite Samba-Kathua sector in Jammu,” she added.

Apart from Azhar, Asghar Alvi, Ammar Alvi, Farooq, Mohammad Ismail, Kamran Ali and Qari Yasir – all Pakistani nationals – and Indian nationals Adil Ahmad Dar and Sameer Dar, the NIA charge sheet also named Shakir Bashir Magray, Insha Jan, her father Peer Tariq Ahmed Shah, Waiz-ul-Islam, Mohammad Abbas Rather, Mohammad Iqbal Rather, Bilal Ahmed Kuchhey, Sajjad Ahmed Bhat, Mudasir Ahmad Khan and Ashaq Ahmed Nengroo.

Farooq, Kamran Ali, Sajjad Ahmed Bhat, Mudasir Ahmad Khan and Qari Yasir have been killed in encounters. Shakir Bashir Magray, Insha Jan, Peer Tariq Ahmed Shah, Mohammad Iqbal Rather, Mohammad Abbas Rather, Bilal Ahmed Kuchhey and Waiz-ul-Islam were arrested. Mohammad Ismail Alvi, Sameer Ahmad Dar and Ashaq Ahmed Nengroo are absconding.

Farooq, a skilled bomb-maker trained in hybrid camps of al Qaeda, Taliban, Jaish and the Haqqani network inside Afghanistan in 2016-17, prepared improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using two jerrycans (one weighing 160kg and another 40kg), gelatin sticks, ammonium nitrate, ammonium powder and RDX on February 5 night, according to the charge sheet.

Ali, also killed in the same encounter as Farooq, Sameer Ahmad Dar and Magray, helped Farooq at Magray’s house. While the RDX was smuggled into India from Pakistan, other explosives were collected by Jaish operatives and overground workers from stone quarries in Kashmir, according to the NIA probe.

On February 6, 2019, the jerrycans filled with explosives were loaded in a Maruti Eeco car that would eventually ram the CRPF convoy eight days later, according to the charge sheet.

HT reported exclusively on March 4 this year that Jaish planned to carry out the attack in the first week of February, but postponed its plans since roads were closed and convoy movement stopped due to inclement weather.

According to the NIA probe, Adil Ahmad Dar drove along with the CRPF convoy for a while before ramming it in the bus that was carrying the maximum number of troops.

He was inspired to become a suicide bomber after watching a vitriolic video of Azhar, recorded in October 2018 after the killing of his nephew Usman Haider in Tral by security forces, the NIA said. In the video, the Jaish chief exhorted young Kashmiris to sacrifice their lives for jihad. “Lot of digital, forensic, documentary and oral evidence establishing a fool-proof case for this dastardly and barbaric attack has been collected. The charge sheet has brought on record the all-out involvement of Pakistan-based entities to carry out terrorist strikes in India and to incite and provoke Kashmiri youth,” Narang said. She added that non-bailable warrants were issued against Azhar, Alvi, Asghar and other absconding accused persons.

Officials said the charge sheet was an irrefutable piece of evidence — technical, material and circumstantial — on Pakistan’s role in the attack.

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