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Masood Azhar: Man behind the terror tentacles, with links to al-Qaeda, Taliban

The Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group was jointly floated by Masood Azhar and Mufti Shamzai in Binoria seminary in 2000.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2019 08:03 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
masood azhar,terror,UN Security Council
Evidence collected and collated by India and shared with Pakistan, members of the UN Security Council, and other prominent countries reveals the umbilical links between Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar with Sunni global terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.(AFP)

Evidence collected and collated by India and shared with Pakistan, members of the UN Security Council, and other prominent countries reveals the umbilical links between Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar with Sunni global terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

There is evidence now to prove that Azhar’s elder brother Ibrahim Azhar and younger brother Rauf Asghar orchestrated the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 to secure the release of Azhar, the then Harkat-ul-Ansar general secretary from an Indian jail, with the help of Al Qaeda, Taliban and the ISI, in exchange for at least 150 passengers.

Such was the clout of Azhar with the then Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and the then Taliban emir Mullah Omar, that he was driven out of Kandahar airport by none other than Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who would go on to be the Taliban chief, and who was killed in a US drone strike on May 21, 2016.

Azhar was in Kot Balwal prison in Jammu at the time of his release; he was arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 11, 1994, after entering India through Bangladesh on a fake Portuguese passport in the name of Vali Adam Issa.

According to the evidence that has been shared (HT has reviewed it), Azhar studied at Jamia Binoria, Karachi, the nursery of global jihad in the 1980s, under the tutelage of Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai and later joined Harkat-ul-Mujahideen lead by Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil. He was combat trained in Al Qaeda terror factories in Afghanistan as Khalil was very close to both Laden and Mullah Omar.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group was jointly floated by Masood Azhar and Mufti Shamzai in Binoria seminary in 2000. After the assassination of Mufti Shamzai, all the jihadi cadre gravitated towards JeM, which was tightly run by Azhar through his close family members.

Rauf Asghar is responsible for running the terror group on a day to day basis. Another brother, Talha Saif, is the head of Al Murabitoon, the student wing of Jaish. Azhar’s brother in law Yusuf Azhar, who may have been killed in the Balakot air strike, was responsible for the Jaish’s terror training.

Older brother Ibrahim Azhar is the operational head of the group with another brother-in-law Ashfaq Ahmad being the main coordinator of Al Rehmat Trust, the so-called charity trust of the Islamic jihadist group.

According to the collected evidence, Masood Azhar is not only a fiery orator but also an ardent exponent of Islamic jihad since the time he was appointed editor of Harkat’s Sada-e-Mujahid magazine. His book, The Virtues of Jihad, is a standard textbook for young jihadis and is widely circulated in the subcontinent.

After propagating jihad in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Zambia and UK in the early 1990s, Azhar focused on the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir after his release in 1999. He orchestrated the October 2001 Kashmir Assembly attack and then the December 2001 Parliament attack, which nearly led to war between India and Pakistan.

Forced to lie low after the 2001 attacks, Azhar had the temerity to target the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in two suicide bombing attacks in December 2003. He stepped up his activities after the 2013 hanging of Parliament attack main accused Afzal Guru with six major attacks on Indian interests. Then came the Lethpora, Pulawama, suicide attack.

First Published: Mar 13, 2019 07:33 IST