India: JeM chief Masood Azhar claims Nagrota attack
India has accused Masood Azhar of masterminding several attacks including the one on an Indian air base in January 2016. Photograph: (AFP)
Even as India names Jaish-e-Mohammad chief in the charge sheet for master-minding attack on an Indian Airforce base in Pathankot earlier this year, Maulana Masood Azhar continues to freely run the terror group's online publication and brazenly claim responsibility for last month's attack on another military camp in Nagrota from Pakistan.
Following an 11-month investigation, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has named Azhar and his brother JeM's deputy chief Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar both resident of Bahawalpur, Pakistan along with six other members of the terrorist group for planning and carrying an attack in Pathankot on January 2. This is the first time India has charge-sheeted Azhar on terror offence, following his release in exchange of victims of Kandahar hijack.
Since the Pathankot attack, Pakistan Prime Minister's foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz claimed that Azhar was under 'protective custody' since January 2014. But this has not restricted the head of the proscribed terror group to propagate jihad against India or own credit for the attacks by its cadres. Earlier this month, writing in the December 6 issue of al Qalam weekly, an online media arm of the JeM, Azhar talks about significance of Babri Masjid demolition and hanging of Afzal Guru in the continuance of jihad, demonetisation not impacting funding of militancy and the Nagrota attack.
"This week's publication was delayed as the attack in Nagrota was still in action at the time of writing and communication failure (on details of the attack) from Kashmir,'' Azhar wrote under his pen name Saadi. On November 29, three militants entered the army camp in Nagrota killing seven personnel. The militants left behind posters claiming the attack as a revenge for hanging of Afzal Guru.
Elaborating on the attack in the 'heart of the Northern Command of the Indian Army', Azhar says the attack was carried by the Afzal Guru squad involving five militants and two of them managed to escape to safety. "There were three security cordons around the camp... it is not easy and inexpensive to gain entry and set the stage for the attack." He indicates that the squad was helped by people with close knowledge on the geography of the camp and who are its frequent visitors, as any strange man walking a few steps could be caught and killed by the Army.
Addressing an important aspect, on where did the money to buy equipment or prepare for the attack come from, Azhar says the demonetisation of high currency denomination has not deterred the Kashmiri mujaheeds nor has impacted the funding for militancy. The money changers and industrialists, Azhar says were aware of demonetisation before its public announcement by PM Narendra Modi. "The Kashmiri Mujahideen, Maoists and Khalistan fighters will not suffer any financial hardship. We are able to get the small currency by exchanging dollars, pounds and euro easily. The Nagrota attack is an evidence for this."
Invoking the demolition of Babri Masjid and Afzal Guru's death, Azhar says these two events have shaped the narrative of `Ghazwa-e-Hind' or the jihad against India. "India could've stopped the demolition of Babri Masjid, but it did not. It could have stopped the hanging of Guru, but it did not. There is now no power in India that can stop their revenge.''
The Indian government is desperately trying to include Azhar on the UN Security Council's 1267 sanctions list and subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban. JeM is already proscribed by the UNSC in 2001 for its terror activities and links to the al-Qaeda. China has so far vetoed India's appeal to that would declare him as an international terrorist.
(This first appeared in DNA)