India Charges Pakistan-Based Terrorist Suicide Bombing

India Charges Pakistan-Based Terrorist Suicide Bombing

NEW DELHI —Pakistan-based Maulana Masood Azhar, designated a terrorist by the United Nations, has been charged in India for the February 2019 suicide bombing in Pulwama, Kashmir, that left 40 Indian paramilitary personnel dead and brought the two nuclear-armed nations to the brink of war.

A 13,800-page charge sheet against Azhar, his brothers Rauf Asghar and Ammar Alvi, and 16 others has been filed at a special court in Jammu in north India by the National Investigation Agency. The 19 have been charged under various provisions of Indian laws, including the principle counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967,and are also charged with murder. The special court is likely to hear the matter in September.

While Azhar, who is reported to be in Pakistan, and five others continue to be out of India’s reach, seven others have been arrested and six have been killed, the investigation agency said in a statement on Aug. 25 after it filed the charge sheet.

“The investigation has revealed that Pulwama attack was a result of a well-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the Pakistan-based leadership of terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM),” the agency stated.

After the suicide bombing, the JeM released a video to claim responsibility for the attack in Kashmir, a contested territory between Pakistan and India. The countries have been at war over Kashmir several times since they both became independent from British rule in 1947.


Indian investigators now claim to have cracked the timeline of the planning and execution of the Feb. 14, 2019 attack, when a car laden with explosives rammed into a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel as it made its way to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley.

The investigators claim that JeM operative Mohammad Umar Farooq, a Pakistani who illegally crossed into India in April 2018, planned the attack with three Pakistanis and two Kashmiris. The group was aided by several others who are named in the charge sheet.

Investigators said the car used to carry out the attack was packed with nearly 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives such as calcium ammonium nitrate, RDX, gelatin sticks and aluminium powder. Investigators say the explosives were ready in January 2019, but snowfall prevented the operations until mid-February.

In the video released by JeM claiming responsibility for the attack, one man is seen with at least four guns and grenades, exhorting Kashmiris to join the militant outfit. Investigators say the video was recorded in January 2019.

Azhar formed the JeM in 2000, a year after he was released by Indian authorities in exchange for 155 hostages on board an Indian Airlines plane that had been hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.  The JeM was sanctioned by the UN Security Council in 2001 for its association with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Azhar was blacklisted by the Security Council’s ISIL and Al Qaeda sanctions committee and designated a global terrorist in 2019 after a sustained campaign by Indian diplomats.

Azhar and his outfit have been blamed for orchestrating other high-profile attacks on Indian soil, including the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament in New Delhi and the strike on a frontline Indian Air Force base in Pathankot near the border with Pakistan in 2016.

“The JeM emerged very rapidly after the release of Masood Azhar in January 2000,” said Syed Ata Hasnain, a former Indian Army commander in Kashmir and now the chancellor of Central University of Kashmir.

An ambulance waits at the scene of the suicide bombing in Lethpora in Kashmir on February 14, 2019. (Courtesy: Mohammad Tahir)

Two weeks after the attack in February 2019, India claimed to have bombed JeM’s training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. A day later, as Pakistan retaliated, a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani fighters led to the downing of an Indian jet and the capture of its pilot in Pakistan. India also claimed to have downed a Pakistani F-16 fighter.

As the hostile neighbors came to the brink of war, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called for restraint, and President Donald Trump said his administration was trying to prevent further escalation.

“They’ve been going at it, and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop,” Trump said in Hanoi on Feb. 28, 2019. An independence movement has roiled Kashmir since the early 1990s.

In its case against the terrorists, the investigation agency says it has “a lot of digital, forensic, documentary and oral evidence establishing a foolproof case,” and has information not only from Indian agencies, but also from foreign law enforcement agencies.

Experts say the charge sheet is significant, and once it is accepted by the court, it could put further pressure on Pakistan for its alleged inaction against terrorist groups.

“The significance of the charge sheet lies in the weight it carries as a legal document which contains evidence of the terrorist networks in Pakistan conspiring and sponsoring terrorist acts on Indian territory,” said Vivek Katju, a former diplomat who served as secretary in India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

“The organization and its leadership is in Pakistan. It is regrettable that MasoodAzhar, the first accused in the charge sheet continues to find shelter in Pakistan,” said Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs said while addressing reporters in New Delhi on Aug. 27. “Enough evidence has been shared with Pakistan but it continues to evade responsibility.”

Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.

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Taliban Peace Team Arrives in Pakistan Despite Sanctions

Taliban Peace Team Arrives in Pakistan Despite Sanctions

An Afghan Taliban delegation is in Islamabad at the invitation of Pakistan’s foreign office to discuss the Afghan peace process, arriving just days after the country imposed sanctions on the group’s leadership, including travel restrictions.

The Taliban delegation, headed by chief peace negotiator Mulla Ghani Baradar, was to meet with senior officials.

Pakistan issued the sanctions order on Aug. 18 but only made it public on Aug. 21. The orders identified dozens of individuals, including Baradar and several members of the Haqqani family, identified by the U.S.government as part of a Sunni Islamist militant organization, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the current head of the organization and the deputy head of the Taliban, among others.

Despite the order preventing their entry into or transit through the country, the Taliban group arrived on Aug. 24.

“Officials of the Islamic Emirate routinely pay visits to regional nations and other countries of the world as part of our political strategy to convey our views about the peace process,” Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a series of posts on Twitter.

“These are not new sanctions; they were slapped on a number of members of the Islamic Emirate previously,” he said. “But we are now entering into intra-Afghan negotiations. There is a need for travel. These embargoes or sanctions will hamper the peace process.”

The sanctions are part of Islamabad’s efforts to avoid being put on the blacklist by the Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization that develops policies to fight money laundering and terror financing.

Pakistan has taken several measures such as amending laws to resolve “structural deficiencies” in its anti-money laundering policies and has combated financing of terrorism.

Afghan affairs expert Rahimullah Yousufzai, an award-winning journalist, told Zenger News that not too much should be read into the sanctions.

“These have more to do with commitments to the FATF,” he said, referring to the task force. “It also puts pressure on the Taliban leadership to fast-track the Afghan peace process. The importance of these talks in Islamabad can be gauged from the fact that Mulla Baradar is leading the team.”


Pakistan was placed on the gray list by the task force last year. It also was on the list in 2008, and again from 2012 to 2015. Other countries on the list are Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.

“These lists contain names of individuals and entities designated under the two sanction regimes established pursuant to the UN Security Council resolutions,” said a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson.

Not only the handling of the Taliban, but also several other points in Pakistan’s recent statements to the task forc point to important developments in the terrorism and conflict landscape of the region. Among them, Indian experts said Pakistan’s listing terror suspect Dawood Ibrahim’s details in its sanctions order was a significant development.

Indian authorities claim that Ibrahim has been granted refuge by Pakistan in Karachi. India has sought his extradition since the 1992 bomb blasts in Mumbai that killed 257 people and injured 1,400. Pakistan has always denied that Ibrahim lives in the country.

This is the first time that the Pakistani government has published details of all those who are on the United Nations’ proscribed list, including Ibrahim. It has also listed Ibrahim’s properties in Karachi.

The Taliban delegation meets with Pakistan’s representatives in an undated photo. (Courtesy: Pakistan Foreign Office)

“This is important because the Pakistanis do not seem to have approached the UN committee concerned for deletion of his (Ibrahim’s) name or modification of the contents relating to his Pakistani passports and his addresses in the country,” said Vivek Katju, a former diplomat who served as a secretary in India’s ministry of external affairs. “This is tantamount to an admission of Dawood Ibrahim’s presence in Pakistan.”

“They are trying to impress the FATF to get off the gray list and not be pushed to the blacklist,” said Tilak Devasher, a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board, and an expert on Pakistan.

Pakistan also passed a series of laws, including amendments to the anti-terror law, to become compliant with the task force’s guidelines. Pakistan’s performance on the task force action plan will come up for review in September.

“This is just meant to fool the FATF—there has been no action against these individuals in the past,” Devasher said.

Many of the Taliban leaders have lived in Pakistan since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 when they were allies of the United States in the war in Afghanistan. The U.S. and Afghanistan have accused Islamabad of giving the Taliban a haven, but Pakistan has denied it.

The U.S. signed a peace deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29 to end the country’s nearly 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan. But delays in a prisoner release program hindered the start of talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

(Edited by Siddharthya Roy and Judy Isacoff.)



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