Masood Azhar

Masood Azhar (Urdu: محمد مسعود اظہر) is the founder and leader of the UN-designated terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, active mainly in the Pakistani administered Azad Kashmir. Pakistani authorities took him into 'protective custody' after the Pathankot attack in India, which was widely reported as an "arrest". However he was seen to be free in April 2016. India had listed Masood Azhar as one of its most wanted terrorists due to his history of militant activities. India has been continuously trying to place Azhar on UN Security Council's counter-terrorism sanctions list, a move vetoed by China.

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Masood Azhar
Born (1968-07-10) 10 July 1968 (age 50)
Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan
AllegianceHarkat-ul-Ansar, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad

Masood Azhar (Urdu: محمد مسعود اظہر) is the founder and leader of the UN-designated terrorist group[1] Jaish-e-Mohammed, active mainly in the Pakistani administered Azad Kashmir.[2] Pakistani authorities took him into 'protective custody' after the Pathankot attack in India,[3] which was widely reported as an "arrest".[4] However he was seen to be free in April 2016.[5] India had listed Masood Azhar as one of its most wanted terrorists due to his history of militant activities.[6][7] India has been continuously trying to place Azhar on UN Security Council's counter-terrorism sanctions list, a move vetoed by China.[8]

Early life

Azhar was born in Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan on 10 July 1968[9] (although some sources list his birth date as 7 August 1968[7]) as the third of 11 children—five sons and six daughters. Azhar's father, Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, was the headmaster at a government-run school as well as a cleric with Deobandi leanings and his family operated a dairy and poultry farm.[9][10]

Azhar dropped out of mainstream school after class 8 and joined the Jamia Uloom Islamic school, from where he graduated out in 1989 as an alim and was soon appointed as a teacher.[10] The madrasa was heavily involved with Harkat-ul-Ansar and Azhar was subsequently assumed under its folds, after being enrolled for a jihad-training camp at Afghanistan.[9] Despite failing to complete the course; he joined the Soviet–Afghan War and retired after suffering injuries. Thereafter, he was chosen as the head of Harkat's department of motivation. He was also entrusted with the editorial responsibilities for the Urdu-language magazine Sad’e Mujahidin and the Arabic-language Sawte Kashmir.[7][9]

Azhar later became the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar and visited many international locations to recruit, to raise funds and to spread the message of Pan-Islamism. Among his destinations were Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Albania.[9]

Activities in Somalia

Azhar confessed that in 1993 he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with leaders of al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda-aligned Somali group, who had requested money and recruits from Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Indian intelligence officials believe that he made at least three trips to Somalia and that he also helped bring Yemeni mercenaries to Somalia.[11]

Activities in the UK

In August 1993 Azhar entered the UK for a speaking, fundraising, and recruitment tour. His message of jihad was given at some of Britain's most prestigious Islamic institutions including the Darul Uloom Bury seminary, Zakariya Mosque, Madina Masjid in Blackburn and Burnley, and Jamia Masjid. His message was that "substantial proportion of the Koran had been devoted to 'killing for the sake of Allah' and that a substantial volume of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad were on the issue of jihad." Azhar made contacts in Britain who helped to provide training and logistical support the terror plots including "7/7, 21/7 and the attempt in 2006 to smuggle liquid bomb-making substances on to transatlantic airlines."[12]

Arrest in India and subsequent release

In early 1994, Azhar travelled to Srinagar under a fake identity, to ease tensions between Harkat-ul-Ansar's feuding factions of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen.[9] India arrested him in February from Khanabal near Anantnag and imprisoned him for his terrorist activities with the groups.[11][9]

In July, 1995, six foreign tourists were kidnapped in Jammu and Kashmir. The kidnappers, referring to themselves as Al-Faran, included the release of Masood Azhar among their demands.[9] One of the hostages managed to escape whilst another was found in a decapitated state in August.[11] The others were never seen or heard from since 1995.[13][14] FBI had interrogated Azhar multiple times during his jail-stay on the locus of the kidnappings.[11]

Four years later, in December 1999, an Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814) en route from Kathmandu in Nepal to New Delhi was hijacked and eventually landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan before being flown to multiple locations. Kandahar at that time was controlled by Taliban, which was initially thought to be on India's side, but later was suggested to be working with Pakistan's ISI. Masood Azhar was one of the three militants demanded to be released in exchange for freeing the hostages. Subsequently, Azhar was freed by the Indian government in a decision criticised by many including Ajit Doval as a "diplomatic failure".[15] The hijackers of IC814 were led by Masood Azhar's brother,[16] Ibrahim Athar. His release from Kot Bhalwal jail was supervised by an IPS officer, S P Vaid.[17] His younger brother Abdul Rauf Asghar had planned this attack. Once Masood Azhar was handed over to the hijackers, they fled to Pakistani territory. Pakistan had said the hijackers would be arrested if found, a difficult task given the length of the border and multitude of access points from Afghanistan. The Pakistani government also previously indicated that Azhar would be allowed to return home since he did not face any charges there.[18]

Shortly after his release, Azhar made a public address to an estimated 10,000 people in Karachi. He proclaimed, "I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed India," vowing to liberate the Kashmir region from Indian rule.[18]

Jaish-e-Mohammed

Masood Azhar's outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed carried out a string of deadly attacks against Indian targets, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war.[19] Soon after the Indian parliament attack, Masood Azhar was detained for a year by Pakistani authorities in connection but was never formally charged. The Lahore High Court ordered an end to the house arrest on 14 December 2002, much to the fury of India.[6]

2008 Mumbai attacks

On 7 December 2008, it was claimed that he was among several arrested by the Pakistani government after a military raid on a camp located on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He continued to live in Bhawalpur.[20][21] Pakistan's government denied it had arrested Masood Azhar and said it was unaware of his whereabouts [22] On 26 January 2014, Masood Azhar reappeared after a seclusion of six years. He addressed a rally in Muzaffarabad, calling for the resumption of jihad in Kashmir. His group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, claims he is currently in Srinagar, India.[23]

2016 Pathankot attack

The 2016 Pathankot attack on Indian air base is said to be masterminded by Masood Azhar and his brother. They were in direct touch with terrorists even after the attack had begun. Indian investigative agencies have given dossiers containing proofs of Azhar's complicity in the terror attack and also sough a second ʽred corner noticeʼ from ʽInterpolʼ.[24][25]

2019 Pulwama attack

On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-bound suicide bomber in Lethpora near Awantipora, Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The attack resulted in the death of 42 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. It is alleged that he approved the attacks from the Pakistani Army Hospital where he is under protective custody.[26] However, National Assembly strongly rejects the Indian allegations seeking to link the attack to Pakistan without investigation and any shred of evidence.[27] France to move proposal at UN Security Council to ban jaish terrorist Masood Azhar.

Sanctions

The U.S. Treasury is prohibiting Americans from "engaging in any transactions" with three Pakistan-based militants and a front group. Al Rehmat Trust, called "an operational front" for Jaish-e Mohammed, was designated for providing support to and for acting for or on behalf of that group, and Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi, Jaish-e Mohammed's founder and leader, was designated for acting on behalf of the group.[28][29]

The Chinese government blocked a UN Security Council Sanctions Committee listing of Azhar as a terrorist, thwarting international efforts to disrupt the activities of his group.[30][31]

China moved to protect Azhar again in October 2016 when it blocked India's appeal to the United Nations to label him as a terrorist.[32] China also blocked US move to get Masood Azhar banned by UN in February 2017.[33]

Bibliography

Books and booklets by him

Described as a "prolific writer",[34] he has authored books on jihad and antisemitism in Urdu, including:

  • Yahūd kī cālīs bīmāryān̲ ("Forty Diseases Of The Jews"). Middle East Media Research Institute noted that it may be the most antisemitic book of the Urdu language.[35]
  • K̲h̲ut̤bāt-i jihād. Islamic sermons on the eminence of Jihad according to the teachings of Islam.
  • Rang o nūr. Collected columns chiefly on jihad and criticizing Pakistani government for following United States policies.
  • Jamāl-i Jamīl. On the life of Muḥammd Jamīl K̲h̲ān, 1953-2004, a noted religious scholar.
  • Zād-i mujāhid : maʻ maktūbāt-i k̲h̲ādim. On the eminence, views and interpretation of Jihad.
  • 7 din raushnī ke jazīre par. 7 Days comprehensive course on Islamic teaching.
  • Tuḥfah-yi saʻādat. Study of God's names in the Qur'an.
  • Faz̤āʼil-i jihād, kāmil. On the importance of Jihad; commentary on Mashāriʻal-Ashwāq ilʹa-Maṣariʻ al-ʻUshshāq by Ibn an-Naḥās.

Books and booklets about him

  • Maulānā Masʻūd Aẓhar, mujāhid yā dahshatgard by Muḥammad T̤āriq Maḥmūd Cug̲h̲tāʼī.
  • Asīr-i Hind : Maulānā Masʻūd Aẓhar ke paidāʼish parvarish jihād men̲ shirkat by ʻAbdullāh Masʻūd.

See also

References

  1. Gunaratna, Rohan; Kam, Stefanie (2016), Handbook of Terrorism in the Asia–Pacific, World Scientific, ISBN 978-1-78326-997-6
  2. "The astonishing rise of Jaish-e-Mohammed: It's bad news for Kashmir, India and Pakistan". FirstPost. Archived from the original on 2016-01-16. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  3. Jaish's Masood Azhar under 'protective custody', confirms Punjab Law Minister Archived 2016-10-03 at the Wayback Machine, Dawn, 15 January 2016.
  4. "Pakistan Arrests JeM Militants After Pathankot Airbase Attack". Geo News. Archived from the original on 2016-01-16. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  5. JeM's Azhar lives freely in Pakistan, govt never detained him: Report Archived 2016-10-05 at the Wayback Machine, Hindustan Times, 26 April 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Indian fury over freed militant". BBC News. 2002-12-14. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
  7. 1 2 3 India's most wanted. 19. Frontline. 2002. ISBN 0066210631. Archived from the original on 2012-09-23.
  8. "How China stood in India's way to list JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar". Indian Express. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Maulana Masood Azhar". Kashmir Herald. kashmiri-pandit.org. 1 (8). January 2002. Archived from the original on 2008-12-11.
  10. 1 2 "How significant is Jaish-e-Muhammad in Kashmir today?". The Indian Express. 2017-11-10. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Watson, Paul; Sidhartha Barua (2002-02-25). "Somalian Link Seen to Al Qaeda". LA Times. Archived from the original on 2002-02-25.
  12. "The man who brought jihad to Britain in 1993". BBC. Apr 4, 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-06-20.
  13. "IndoPak: New book claims India-backed group killed kidnapped Kashmir tourists". Public Radio International. 3 April 2012. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  14. "Middlesbrough hostage Keith Mangan abducted in Kashmir 20 years ago today". Gazettelive.co.uk. 4 July 2005. Archived from the original on 2018-04-01. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  15. Gannon, Kathy (1999-12-31). "Hopes for end to jet hijack". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2009-02-11.
  16. Jaleel, Muzamil (6 June 2016). "After Kandahar swap, India offered Taliban cash to get me: JeM chief". London: The IndianExpress. Archived from the original on 2016-11-07. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  17. "Even without Kandahar, Azhar may have walked out". The Indian Express. 17 December 2008.
  18. 1 2 Hussain, Zahid (2000-01-05). "Freed Militant Surfaces". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2000-09-01. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
  19. Tanner, Marcus (2001-12-17) Pakistan blamed by India for raid on parliament. The Independent
  20. Subramanian, Nirupama (2008-12-18). "Restrictions put on Masood Azhar". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2008-12-12.
  21. "JeM chief Masood Azhar under house arrest". Times of India. 2008-12-09. Archived from the original on 2008-12-12.
  22. "Pakistan denies militant arrested". BBC News. 2008-12-18. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21.
  23. "In Plain View". 23 March 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  24. "Jaish chief Masood Azhar identified as mastermind of Pathankot terror attack - Times of India". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2017-09-08.
  25. Desk, The Hindu Net. "The 1267 Committee, China's hold and Masood Azhar: A short history". The Hindu.
  26. "Masood Azhar gave nod for Pulwama attack from Army base hospital in Pakistan - Times of India ►". The Times of India. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  27. "NA passes resolution rejecting India's 'baseless allegations' against Pakistan after Pulwama attack". Dawn.
  28. "U.S. Treasury targets Pakistani militants". CNN. 2010-11-04. Archived from the original on 2012-11-08.
  29. US Department of the Treasury Archived 2010-11-11 at the Wayback Machine. Treas.gov. Retrieved on 2013-03-14.
  30. "China's move to block ban against Azhar came just before deadline". The Hindu. April 2, 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-04-02.
  31. Sutirtho Patranobis (April 23, 2016). "China fumes after India issues visa to Uyghur 'terrorist'". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 2016-04-23.
  32. "China blocks India's move to ban Jaish chief Masood Azhar, again". Hindustan Times. 1 October 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-10-12.
  33. "China blocked US move to get Masood Azhar banned by UN". Times of India. Archived from the original on 2017-02-09.
  34. Ben Brandt, "AZHAR, MASOOD" in Peter Chalk, Encyclopedia of Terrorism, ABC-CLIO (2013), vol. 1, p. 79
  35. Ahmed, Tufail. "'Forty Diseases Of The Jews' – Pakistan Army-Backed Jihadi Commander Maulana Masood Azhar's Book Says: 'Jews Are The Cancer Seeping Into All Of Humanity'". memri.org. Middle East Media Research Institute. Archived from the original on 2018-02-28. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
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