Delhi Tracks Al Qaida, Jaish Links

Gulf News
October 11, 2001


The U.S. administration's decision to put Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad on the watch list, as a first step towards banning the organisation, has brought smiles back on the face of Indian authorities.

Foreign and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh is believed to have gone with a dossier on Jaish's links with Al Qaida, headed by America's most wanted man Osama bin Laden, during his recent visit to the U.S.

The Foreign Office here feels that it has been able to establish a direct connection between the hijackers of Indian Airlines IC-814 Kathmandu-Delhi flight and those behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in U.S.

The crucial link is a British national, Ahmad Omar Sheikh, who along with Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar was exchanged for 155 passengers of IC-814 at Kandahar in December 1999.

Sheikh, a graduate of London School of Economics, was arrested by Indian authorities for a failed attempt to kidnap four foreigners in a bid to get Azhar released. Among the information provided by India to the U.S. was that Sheikh, a close confidant of Maulana Masood Azhar, had transferred $ 100,000 into a Florida bank account of Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers who flew a plane into the World Trade Centre.

Atta sent back $ 15,600, believed to be the leftover cash from the terrorist fund just before the WTC attacks to Pakistan.

The U.S. is believed to have confirmed these facts before putting Jaish on the watch list.

India is also believed to have provided the U.S. with requisite information about Maulana Masood Azhar, who Pakistan was terming as a cleric and wanted India to order his release while he spent nine years in prisons.

Azhar, soon after his release at Kandahar had surfaced in Pakistan and launched Jaish, which has specialised in organising suicidal attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, including the October 1 attack on the state legislative assembly in Srinagar in which over 36 civilians were killed.

"Azhar was trained in a terrorist camp run by Bin Laden in Afghanistan. His terrorism camps in Pakistan are also funded by Bin Laden. Around 600 Jaish terrorists are estimated to be active in India at present," intelligence sources said.

New Delhi's hopes are expectedly high now, as the authorities here believe that the U.S. is bound to put further pressure on Islamabad to stop treating terrorists as freedom fighters and cut off all state support to them.

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