India

Days before Pulwama attack, Masood Azhar told cadres: ‘Kashmir will get freedom soon’

The audio of the purported address by Masood Azhar is part of the evidence given by New Delhi to Islamabad against him and JeM activities in Kashmir, sources said.

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar had addressed cadres of the terror outfit and claimed that “Pakistan is not complete without Kashmir” days before a suicide bomber, linked with the outfit, drove an explosives-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, and killed 40 troopers, according to investigators.

The audio of the purported address by Azhar is part of the evidence given by New Delhi to Islamabad against Azhar and JeM activities in Kashmir, sources said.

Barely 10 days before the February 14 Pulwama attack, the Jaish chief paid “tributes to the militants killed in Kashmir”, and said that “Kashmir will attain freedom soon, along with freedom of all Muslims of India”, according to the audio message.

The audio is reportedly from an address delivered by Azhar on February 5.

In the audio, he is heard drawing a comparison between the United States’s position in Afghanistan and India’s position in the Valley. “The US has come to negotiate in Afghanistan, India too will be compelled to beg for negotiations before the next Kashmir solidarity day. If all Muslims of Kashmir unite against India, victory can be achieved within a month…,” he is heard saying.

The evidence submitted by India comes at a time when New Delhi is pressing for a ban on the Jaish chief at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi admitted that “Azhar is in Pakistan but is very very ill”.

“The audio clearly shows that the mastermind behind Pathankot, Uri and recent Pulwama attacks continues to operate and instigate attacks against India,” a top North Block official said.

In the audio, Azhar did not make any direct mention of the Pulwama attack, but intelligence agencies suspect his call for unity in Kashmir implies that he was planning a big attack. The agencies at the time had been unable to decode it, resulting in the attack, sources indicated.

In the latest dossier on activities of JeM, India is learnt to have listed names of as many as 40 militants — all of them Pakistani nationals — who were trained at the Balakot training centre in recent past. Names and details of those trained at the camp, according to the documents, is also available with Pakistani agencies.

These cadres trained at Balakot came from eight different districts of Pakistan and were aged between 17 and 23 years, an official confirmed.

Citing another audio message from Azhar, soon after the death of his nephew Usman Hyder, the dossier states, “Azhar motivated the cadres to follow footsteps of Usman.”

Usman, 18, was the son of Ibrahim Azhar, the JeM chief’s elder brother who was instrumental in hijacking an Air India flight in 1999 that helped secure Masood Azhar’s release. Usman was killed during a gunfight with security forces in Tral, in J&K, on October 30 last year.

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