April 2000 News

Moulana Azhar forms new outfit, sends suicide bomber to Kashmir

20 April 2000
Indian Express

Srinagar: The suicide bomber, who tried to ram into the Army''s 15 Corps headquarters belonged to a recently launched outfit - Jaish Mohammad or the army of the prophet. The outfit has been floated by Moulana Azhar Masood, who was released in exchange for passengers and crew of hijacked Indian Airliner at Kandhar last year. Azhar, an ideologue of pan-Islamic Harkat-ul-Mujahideen outfit, was arrested in Anantnag in 1994 and his party had made many unsuccessful bids to get him out of Indian prison. Finally, he was released along with two top militant leaders in the Indian Airlines hijack deal last year. After his release at Kandhar, Azhar surfaced in Karachi where he addressed a few rallies and vowed to work for intensification of ''jehad'' against India and United States. Later, he tried to form an umbrella group and bring all the pan-Islamic outfits like Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-e-Jehadi Islami and Albadr under one command. However, he did not succeed in forming a conglomerate and thus launched the new outfit, Jaish Mohammad. He even visited Afghanistan to get fresh recruitments for the outfit and also to seek the support of Taliban for his new endeavour. Though Jaish Mohammad was launched only in March, the group has already started its activities in the Valley and parts of Jammu. Reason: Azhar had given an open call to militants of all the jehadi groups active in Kashmir valley to unify, come under his banner and accelerate ''jehad''. ''There have been reports in different areas of the Valley especially from north Kashmir about a few groups of militants having joined Azhar''s new outfit,'' a senior security force officer said. Sources in the security forces here claim that Azhar, who had been a top motivator and fund-collector for Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, had actually managed to gather 300 Afghan commandos. ''These militants have been kept in two camps at Murri and Domana and led by two militant commanders Safdar Bhai andKamran Ali,'' the sources said. Sources said Azhar had been emphasising on the encouragement of recruitment of local Kashmiri youngsters rather than send men from outside. Azhar soon retired to his ancestral town, Bhawalpur, where his father Allah Bakhsh Shabir, 66, and mother Ruqua Bibi, 58, live along with their other 11 children and run a dairy and a poultry farm. Azhar has six sisters and five brothers amongst whom at least one, the youngest Jehangir Akbar, 23, is going through religious studies at a madrassa.


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