Masood Azhar Planning Suicide Attacks At Election Rallies

Masood Azhar Planning Suicide Attacks At Election Rallies

18 February 2014
India Today
Saurabh Shukla

New Delhi: India Y2K terror bug won't go away. Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the three terrorists released by India on the last day of 1999 to end the Kandahar hijack, is back in action. A flurry of intelligence reports have warned that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the terror group created by Azhar after his release which is responsible for the attack on Parliament in 2001, is planning a wave of suicide attacks at rallies across India as the Lok Sabha campaign heats up. Intelligence agencies tracking Azhar's movements have also issued alerts on a plane hijack threat from JeM militants especially trained at the group's headquarters in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. There have been two such alerts in recent weeks, pointing to smaller airfields as likely targets. According to intelligence reports, Azhar has claimed at a recent rally in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, that he had an army of suicide bombers waiting to be unleashed on India. Azhar has said that time to resume jihad, or holy war, against India has come. 'There are 313 fidayeen (fighters who are ready to die) in this gathering and if a call is given the number will go up to 3,000,' he said at the Muzaffarabad rally. Intelligence sources describe Azhar's resurgence as part of the larger Pakistani gameplan of fomenting instability in India during the elections. It also seeks to put pressure on Kashmir and redirect world focus on the dispute, they say. This is in sync with attempts made by the Nawaz Sharif regime to ensure that the terror masterminds are encouraged and unleashed as part of a covert K plan first reported by MAIL TODAY. The timing of Azhar's resurfacing is critical and has top officials worried, for a fresh spiral of terror attacks could create chaos and even alter the dynamics of the elections in India. A former fighter for Jaish, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Azhar remained in command of the group, operating from his Bahwalpur base. 'His speech via telephone should not be a surprise for people involved in jihad, he has been controlling the organisation very actively,' the man said. Azhar was arrested in Kashmir in 1994 while travelling on a forged Portuguese passport. One of the other freed militants was UK-born Omar Sheikh, a close aide of Azhar who was later convicted in the 2002 abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Sheikh is reported to have attempted suicide in jail last week. 'JeM has an obsession with India that transcends Kashmir. Any reactivation of Masood Azhar is cause for deep concern,' said A.K. Doval, a former head of India's Intelligence Bureau and one of the foremost experts on militant groups in South Asia.