Thousands of JeM terrorists trained at Balakot Mosque
19 December 2001
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) members—many involved in Kashmir insurgency—are trained every year at the Balakot mosque in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, an American newspaper has reported quoting JeM members now in jail in Afghanistan. JeM is the Pakistani group that initially claimed responsibility for the October one attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly building and afterwards tried to recant. It is one of the groups the United States regards as a terrorist organisation and India has asked Pakistan to ban. In a report from Charikar, 65 km north of Kabul, the New York times yesterday quoted JeM member Ishtaq Ahmad as saying that his year-long ''political and military training'' took place at the Balakot mosque. The paper quoted him and his three JeM comrades in a Northern Alliance (NA) compound as saying that 1,000 to 2,000 JeM members were trained at the mosque each year. Ahmad was quoted as saying that many went to Kashmir, where Pakistan-trained fighters have been stirring up an insurrection. What took him to Afghanistan was a call for a ‘holy war’ against the Americans, which he heard while he was in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where, too, JeM has training camps. ''They told us there is a Jihad in Afghanistan because the americans had come to oppress the Afghans. It was a Jihad against the USA.'' The recent string of NA victories has produced a flood of prisoners, the paper said. The largest jail is at sheberghan west of Mazar-i-Sharif, with more than 3,000 prisoners. A makeshift jail on the grounds of an old summer palace near Kabul has more than 70 prisoners—mostly Pakistanis and the rest Afghan members of the Taliban. Some of the Pakistanis, most in their late 20’s, had been sent from Madrasas, or religious schools, in Raiwind, a town south of Lahore, the paper said. An NA guard was quoted as saying that some prisoners were likely to be bartered for NA fighters still held by remnants of the Taliban. Others were quoted as saying that some prisoners may be held until their families buy them freedom, a business that gives jailers no incentive even to report captives to higher authorities. The paper said the issue was especially sensitive in the case of Arab, Pakistani, Chechen, Uzbek and other foreign fighters, who have links to Islamic fundamentalist or terrorist organisations and are presumably the sort of fighters India, the US and Russia would like to question before the Afghan authorities decide if they should be freed. The US is getting ready to house large numbers of prisoners at a base near Kandahar, the paper said. It noted that JeM, led by Maulana Masood Azhar, was essentially a spinoff of another militant Pakistani group, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen and suspected of receiving support from Osama bin Laden. Azhar was released from jail in 1999 at the demand of hijackers who took over an Indian Airlines jet and diverted it to Kandahar. JeM has been blamed for a series of rocket and grenade attacks in India and the paper said it has also been suspected in the killing of 16 Christians in Pakistan in October. The group’s fighters include Pakistanis and Arabs and its main bases are in Pakistan’s Peshawar and Muzaffarabad areas. It has reportedly operated training camps in Afghanistan, where its fighters are schooled in the use of automatic weapons, mortars and rocket- propelled grenades, it said.