December 2000 News

For this college kid from UK, Mission Kashmir was suicide carbomb

29 December 2000
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: The suicide bomber who drove an explosive-laden Maruti car right up to the entrance of the Army’s 15 Corps headquaters on Christmas Day and blew it up was a 24-year-old British national who left his college in the Midlands six years ago to join the jehad in Pakistan. A laudatory profile of the bomber appears in the latest issue of Zarb-e-Momin, the official publication of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group floated by Maulana Masood Azhar, the militant commander who was one of three released to free the passengers and crew of the hijacked IC-814 last year. Incidentally, it was Azhar who claimed responsibility for the car-bomb blast and said that one of his men had died. That man, according to the Jaish-e-Mohammad, is Mohammad Bilal who was born into a Pakistani family in Birmingham, UK, and was a ‘‘night-club going lad’’ until he became a born-again Muslim at the age of 18 after ‘‘he saw the Prophet Mohammad in a dream.’’ It is learnt that Bilal flew to Pakistan in 1994 leaving his studies incomplete to join the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. And when the group merged with the Harkat-e-Jihadi Islami to form the Harkat-ul-Ansar, he too joined in. He was trained in weapons and was put through an intensive programme in religious indoctrination. It is learnt that he went back to the UK in 1995 for a brief period only to return to Pakistan and then cross over to Kashmir. It was here that he was active until December 25 when, as Zarb-e-Momin says, he ‘‘aspired to martyrdom and God fulfilled his desire’’. There is, however, no information about the family of the suicide bomber as yet. ‘‘He was more fortunate than us to die in the cause of Allah in the holy month of Ramazan,’’ the magazine quotes Azhar as having said. In fact, another Jaish mouthpiece, a fortnightly magazine, Khabar Nama Jaish-e-Mohammad, also ran a detailed story about the ‘‘sacrifice’’ of the British suicide bomber. Bilal is said to have operated in the Valley with the Harkat for almost a year before being called back to Pakistan sometime in 1999. Azhar’s loyal disciple, he rushed to join him after he was released in the hijack deal. And it was at Azhar’s behest that Bilal is said to have joined Jaish and asked to report to the Valley. Details of the car-bomb blast are now emerging. Sources said that Bilal was one of the five armed militants in a blue Maruti car. They stopped a white Maruti (DL5C 5889) in Rajouri Kadal at around 11.30 and and asked its driver, Syed Mujtaba Want, a schoolteacher, to get off. Police said that Want was blindfolded and taken to an unknown destination where he was kept captive for the entire day to be released only in the eveining. By the time Want reached the police to file a complaint, his car had already been blown up in the suicide attack. In fact, Bilal is not the first Western militant to have died in the Valley. Earlier, an Albanian national, a member of the Lashkar-e-Tobia, was killed by the Army in north Kashmir. And several militants from Afghanistan, Sudan and central Asian countries have died in the Valley. According to a report published in The Times, London, the recruitment of British nationals in jehadi groups active across the world is a fact that’s no secret in the UK. Quoting Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, leader of the Al Muhajiroun group, the paper reports that he enlisted about 600 volunteers from mosques and universities in Britain. ‘‘Despite international condemnation of the recruitment drive, it was the duty of these young Britons to join the Jihad or holy war,’’ the paper quoted the chief as saying. Giving details about one such recruitment, the newspaper reports that Omar Mohammad, a 21-year-old mathematics undergraduate, joined after being ‘‘angered by what he saw on television of the conflict in Kashmir’’. This young British Muslim is said to have reached a jehadi camp in a remote corner of Pakistan, ‘‘without telling his parents or tutors.’’


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