INDIAN GOVERNMENT: Union Home Minister's statement at a press conference today
Thursday, January 06, 2000 1:18 PM EST
JAN 6, 2000, M2 Communications - The security forces pursuing the trail of Pakistan's Operation Hijack have made a significant breakthrough.
Working in tandem with central intelligence agencies, the Mumbai Police has nabbed four ISI operatives based in Mumbai, who comprised the support cell for the five hijackers of the Indian Airlines Plane.
All these four are activists of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), the fundamentalist tanzeem based in Rawalpindi (Pakistan), which in 1997 was declared by U.S.A. a terrorist organisation. After this declaration, the tanzeem has rechristened itself as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM).
The Four HuA operatives arrested are:
Mohammed Rehan Mohammed Iqbal Yusuf Nepali Abdul Latif
The first two in the above list are Pakistanis; Rehan is from Karachi while Iqbal is from Multan.
Yusuf, as his name indicates, is a Nepali national.
Latif, however, is an Indian from Mumbai who was recruited by the ISI while he was in the Gulf Region.
He later underwent intensive training in two camps one in Pakistan and the second in Afghanistan.
Interrogation of these four operatives has confirmed that the IAC Hijack was an ISI operation executed with the assistance of Harkat-ul-Ansar, and further, that all the five hijackers are Pakistanis.
The hijackers named by these operatives are:
Ibrahim Athar, Bahawalpur Shahid Akhtar Sayed, Gulshan Iqbal, Karachi Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Defence Area, Karachi Mistri Zahoor Ibrahim, Akhtar Colony, Karachi Shakir, Sukkur City
To the passengers of the hijacked place these hijackers came to be known respectively as (1) Chief, (2) Doctor, (3) Burger, (4) Bhola, and (5) Shankar, the names by which the hijackers invariably addressed one another. The breakthrough came when the hijackers, through one of their associates in Pakistan, contacted their Mumbai prop Abdul Latif.
Latif was asked to tell a certain TV correspondent in London to put out the news on his international channel that if the demands of the hijackers were not conceded they would blow up the plane. This exchange took place on December 29 night. The cue was promptly followed up, and these four were rounded up.
Preparations for the operation were spread over nearly two months. The hijackers as well as their Mumbai based associates, particularly Abdul Latif, made several trips to Kathmandu during this period.
On Novemkber 1, 1999, the Chief Hijacker Akhtar accompanied by Abdul Latif left Mumbai for Calcutta by air. From Calcutta they took a train to New Jalpaiguri and then went to Kathmandu by bus. Abdul Latif returned after dropping Sayed Shahid Akhtar at Kathmandu.
On December 1, 1999, Abdul Latif made another trip to Kathmandu, along with Shakir. This time he travelled by train to Gorakhpur and from there onwards to Kathmandu by bus.
On December 17, 1999, Latif took an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Delhi and returned to Mumbai by train.
Apart from the testimony given by the four Harkat operatives, Pakistan's complicity in this diabolic hijacking episode is borne out by the events that occurred in the course of the hijack episode itself.
There are at least six tell-tale pointers to this fact:
(i)A little while before the departure of IC-814 from Kathmandu, a Pakistan Embassy car (42 CD 14) arrived at the aircraft. Among the three officials who dismounted from the car and proceeded to the Departure Lounge was one who is believed to have supplied a consignment of RDX to a group of Punjabi militants in Kathmandu some years back.
(ii)When the hijackers took control of the aircraft and announced that the place had been hijacked their first directive to the Pilot was: Proceed to Lahore.
(iii)At the Indian pilot's request, ATC Lahore declined to permit the Indian Airlines place to land but when on its way back from Amritsar, the Chief Hijacker spoke to ATC, Lahore and urged him that the plane had to be refuelled, the ATC Lahore allowed it to land, and provided it fuel.
(iv)Out of the 36 prisoners whose release was demanded by the hijackers as many as 33 were Pakistanis, one was a U.K. national of Pak origin, and one was an Afghan. Only one was a Kashmiri Indian. Pak interest in getting these prisoners released is evident.
(v)Maulana Masood Azhar, former General Secretary of HuA, who had entered India under pseudonym Essa Bin Adam on a Portuguese passport in early 1994 with the obvious objective of promoting militancy in J&K, was owned by the Pakistan Government as early as June 1996, when Major General (Retd.) Nasirullah Khan Babar, the then Interior Minister of the Government of Pakistan, wrote to the then High Commissioner of India in Islamabad seeking his release on "humanitarian grounds". The use by Maulana Masood Azhar of a pseudonym and a Portuguese passport is in consonance with the Pakistani technique of concealing the real identity through such means.
Later, in December, 1997, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi sent a formal Note Verbale to the Ministry of External Affairs claiming Maulana Masood Azhar to be a Pakistan national and requesting for Consular acess.
(vi)Today's news from Pakistan indicating that some of the released persons have surfaced in Pakistan.
The hijack crisis, and its well-established nexus with Pakistan's continuing proxy war against India, has sharply highlighted the inseparable link between India's internal security, the security of our borders and the protection of our unity and integrity.
The war against terrorism has been a protracted one, always and everywhere in the world. No country that has got the better of this menace has had the luxury of following a smooth, linear path.
But experience the world over has also shown that a terrorist movement, confronted by organised state power, is always subject to the law of decreasing returns and increasing risks. They should know that they have no hope of winning against the might of the Indian State, complemented by the equal might of the unity and patriotic resolve of the Indian people.
Pakistan has faced defeat in each of the four open wars it waged against India. It has also had to bite dust in the terrorist campaign for a separate Khalistan, which was fully sheltered and mentored in Pakistan. Punjab is peaceful and normal today. The Government of India is determined to make Jammu & Kashmir, and other parts of India, also free from the menace of terrorism.
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