February 2000 News

Masood to unite all mujahideen groups

4 February 2000
Asian Age

Karachi: A leading Pakistani Islamic cleric, freed from an Indian jail to end a hijacking last month, launched a new movement to unite mujahideen fighters in the disputed state of Kashmir on Friday. Maulana Masood Azhar, who was arrested in Kashmir in 1994, was released by New Delhi to end the Indian Airlines hijacking in Afghanistan in December. Surrounded by heavily armed guards he addressed thousands of supporters at a mosque in Karachi before holding a press conference at the cityís press club. "We do not divide mujahideen into different sections. We are all one fighting for the enforcement of Islam," Azhar told the press conference. "I want to unite all the mujahideen who are presently working in different groups," he said. Azhar said he will be the leader of the group, which is called Jaish-e Mohammad mujahideen-e Tanzeem, or the movement of the army of the holy warriors of Mohammad.

Thousands of Muslims swore an oath to join his movement after Friday prayers in Karachi, he said. Asked if other leading pro-Kashmiri groups would join up Azhar said: "At present all these groups will have their own identity but we want to unite the people." He said 5,000 Kashmiris were still being held in jails in Kashmir. Rows over the Himalayan state of Kashmir have pushed Pakistan and India into two wars since their independence in 1947. They came close to a third year when the rival armies fought fierce battles around Kargil heights.

"Since the independence of India, Kashmir has been Pakistanís territory but India has forcibly occupied Kashmir," a religious leader in Azharís group Nizamuddin Shamzi, said in a statement. "Since then it has unleashed terror against the Kashmiri Muslims and now after the formation of this organisation this movement will take revenge and will give an appropriate response to the Indians. "We appeal to all Kashmiris and Pakistani Muslims to join this organisation and participate in jihad in Kashmir against Indian terrorism," he said. Azhar also has links to the militant group Harkat ul-Ansar, now known as Harkat ul-Mujhahideen, which has been on a US state department list of foreign terrorist groups since 1997. (AFP)


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