Masood Azhar, Ibrahim Operated In J&K In 2004
12 January 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Srinagar: When virtually the whole world was looking for the Jaish-e-Mohammad supremo, Masood Azhar, and his brother Ibrahim-one of the hijackers of IC-814-they were both operating for their organisation in Jammu and Kashmir. Masood, in fact, addressed a gathering of over one hundred field commanders at the organisation's training camp, close to LoC, in Poonch district as recently as in July 2004. These sensational revelations, currently being verified by the Government agencies, have been made by Jaish's 'district commander' Sajjad Ahmed Bhat during his sustained interrogation. Sajjad Bhat had been lifted by District Police Pulwama from a Srinagar hospital earlier this month. Currently under interrogation of different agencies at JIC Srinagar, Bhat has revealed in detail how the most-wanted Jaish supremo and his brother operated for over more than a year in Jammu and Kashmir. Government of India has been repeatedly claiming that Ibrahim was one among the five Masood followers who hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 while it was en route to Delhi from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. Names of the two brothers figure with 18 others in the demarche New Delhi delivered on Islamabad in the aftermath of a militant attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. Under obvious pressure from Washington, Islamabad has disowned the Jaish chief and his brother but expressed its incapacity to implement Interpol's red corner warrant on the fugitive duo. Then heading the pan-Islamist Harkat-ul-Ansar, Maulana Masood Azhar had been arrested by security forces in a routine checking of vehicles near Mattan in Anantnag in 1994. He was released by the Government of India on December 31, 1999, in exchange for the hostages of the IC-814. Then Union Minister for External Affairs, Jaswant Singh, had taken Masood Azhar, Al-Omar Mujahideen founder-chief Mushtaq Zargar and a British national of Pakistani origin Sheikh Ahmed Omar Sayeed all the way to Kandahar to hand over the trio to the hijackers through the erstwhile Taliban government in Afghanistan. Apparently in an attempt to stand clear of the increasing pressure from Indian and United States of America, Masood floated a new organisation by the name of Khudaam-ul-Islam in 2000. India and many other countries took it as a front name for the Jaish. Omar Sayeed was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Pakistani court on charges of murdering the American journalist Daniel Pearl. The US agencies have reportedly found him linked to Mohammad Atta, one of the Al-Qaeda's 9-11 heroes who crashed aircraft on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. As Masood, a firebrand Jehadi ideologue, organised his cadres from Pakistan to Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir, his brother Ibrahim appeared as Jaish's head in Kashmir valley in 2003-04. Sajjad Bhat has revealed that he got Ibrahim to Kashmir from Azadpur, Delhi, and delivered him on the Jaish's J&K headquarters in an upper Tral hilly terrain in Dachhigam-Pahalgam belt. The Jaish headquarters, according to the detainee, is equipped with everything from concrete bunkers to anti- aircraft guns. He has mentioned the present J&K Jaish chief's name as Jamaal and that of the 'deputy chief' as Mulla Naasir. Both, according to him, are senior guerrilla commanders from Pakistan. Interestingly enough, according to Sajjad Bhat's disclosures, a prominent Parliament Member of today's Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal 'facilitated' Ibrahim's safe travel from Delhi to Kashmir. Sajjad Bhat has claimed to have listened to Ibrahim's audio cassette purportedly recorded during the hijack drama on board IC-815. According to him, Ibrahim functioned as Jaish's head in Jammu and Kashmir for about one year. It was again Sajjad Bhat who dropped him back at Azadpur Fruit Mandi last year and got Jamaal safely from Delhi to head Jaish in Kashmir. Sajjad Bhat has revealed to his interrogators that not only Ibrahim but also his sibling, Masood Azhar, visited several parts of the State in 2004. In the most sensational part of his disclosures, Sajjad has revealed how Masood addressed a conclave of over 100 field commanders of the organisation at a training camp close to LoC somewhere in Poonch district. He claims to have attended the gathering and taken Masood's photographs on his mobile phone. The cellphone with built-in camera has been seized by the authorities. It's SIM card stands issued to Sajjad Bhat's brother, a resident of Shopian town. Sajjad Bhat, according to highly-placed sources in the Government, insists that both Masood as well as Ibrahim, were currently 'somewhere in Pakistan'. IGP Kashmir, Javaid Makhdoomi, told the EXCELSIOR that he was well aware of the disclosures made by Sajjad but said that everything he revealed was being cross-checked with other sources and agencies. 'I don't believe a bulky man like Masood must have been able to cross over to our side in Poonch. We think Sajjad Bhat is referring to some other militant who too is believed to have operated with the same name', Makhdoomi said. However, officials who searched the photograph on the cellphone insist that it was none other than the Jaish supremo Masood Azhar. They sounded confident that the photograph had not been clicked from another picture published in a newspaper or magazine.