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IAC HIJACKING: THE SMOKING GUN

Note No. 58

 
According to the Taliban authorities, the hijackers of the Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC) aircraft, now held at Kandahar, have demanded the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, an office-bearer of the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), previously known as Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), who is under detention in India since 1994 and who is known to have been a close associate of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and Somalia before his arrest.

In a report presented to the US Congress in May, 1999, on the Patterns of Global Terrorism during 1998, the Counter-Terrorism Division of the US State Department had stated as follows on the HUM (Text reproduced from pages 67 and 68 of the State Department's report):

DESCRIPTION

Formerly the Harkat-ul-Ansar, which was designated a foreign terrorist organisation in October 1997. HUM is an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that operates primarily in Kashmir. Leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil has been linked to Bin Laden and signed his fatwa in February 1998 calling for attacks on US and Western interests. Operates terrorist training camps in Eastern Afghanistan and suffered casualties in the US missile strikes on Bin Laden-associated training camps in Khowst in August 1998. Fazlur Rehman Khalil subsequently said that HUM would take revenge on the United States.

ACTIVITIES

Has conducted a number of operations against Indian troops and civilian targets in Kashmir. Linked to the Kashmiri militant group Al Faran that kidnapped five Western tourists in Kashmir in July 1995; one was killed in August 1995 and the other four were reportedly killed in December of the same year.

STRENGTH

Has several thousand armed supporters located in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, and India's southern Kashmir and Doda regions. Supporters are mostly Pakistanis and Kashmiris and also include Afghans and Arab veterans of the Afghan war. Uses light and heavy machine guns, assault rifles, mortars, explosives and rockets.

LOCATION/AREAS OF OPERATION

Based in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, but members conduct insurgent and terrorist activities primarily in Kashmir. The HUM trains its militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

EXTERNAL AID

Collects donations from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Islamic States and from Pakistanis and Kashmiris. The source and amount of HUA's military funding are unknown. (End State Department's text)

Addressing a press conference at Peshawar on August 25, 1998, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said: " The USA calls Osama a terrorist and President Clinton is claiming that all terrorist training camps had been destroyed in the air strikes. Let me tell the Americans that not even one per cent of the so-called terrorist camps run by Osama have been destroyed. "

In another warning to the US on September 1,1998, he said: " The USA has struck us with Tomahawk cruise missiles at only two places, but we will hit back at them everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it."

Opposing the visit of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Indian Prime Minister, to Lahore for talks with the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr.Nawaz Sharif, Fazlur Rahman Khalil said: " Islam's enemity with India is ideological and not just territorial. More bodies of Indian officials would be sent in coffins from Kashmir on the days Vajpayee visits Lahore."

The volunteers of the HUM, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Al Badr were used by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Chief Executive of Pakistan, and Lt.Gen. Mohammad Aziz, his Chief of the General Staff (CGS), for occupying the ridges in the Kargil sector before they were replaced by regular Pakistani army troops.

Lt.Gen. Aziz, himself believed to be a Sudan (caste) from Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, coordinates the contacts of the Pakistan army with the HUM and bin Laden.

For more details regarding the HUM and its contacts in the Pakistan army, please see our earlier paper dated March 20,1999, on the HUM at http://www.ict.org.il .   The paper is to be found under the sub-section articles of the section "International Terrorism." We hope to issue an up-date shortly.

B.RAMAN                                                         26.12.99

(The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail:corde@vsnl.com)

 

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