Pakistani militant leader slips into Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - A pro-Taliban Pakistani militant leader, whose group is fighting in Kashmir and is listed as a terrorist organization by Washington, has gone into Afghanistan, sources close to the group said Friday.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, leader of Kashmiri militant group Harkatul Mujahideen, went into Afghanistan Tuesday with a small group of his followers, the sources said.
Khalil has not been seen for several weeks and even his party says he has not been in touch with them for some time.
The funds of the group -- listed for years as a terrorist organization -- were frozen by Washington after the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
More than 35 members of Harkatul Mujahideen were killed last month in Kabul when a bomb hit their hostel. Some were buried in Kabul but several bodies were smuggled back into Pakistan.
About a dozen Muslim separatist rebel groups have been fighting Indian security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.
Thousands of armed pro-Taliban Pakistanis have gone into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban, under attack by the United States for sheltering Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Pakistani fighters have defied a ban by their government prohibiting its nationals from joining Taliban forces.
Most are being sent by the Tehrik Nifaze Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM) movement, or movement to impose Islamic laws, led by radical Maulana Sufi Mohammad.
His son Fazlullah told Reuters by telephone from the remote village of Maidan in Pakistan's northwest that more fighters were preparing to go over and help the Taliban in their jihad, or holy war.
"The first phase is over -- 75 vehicles with our members went into Afghanistan yesterday... Now we are preparing a second group," he said, adding that relief and medical supplies were also being collected to be sent to Afghanistan.
Armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket launchers, followers of Sufi Mohammad have been crossing over in vehicles or on foot through rugged terrain between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government is unable to completely stop people crossing over from the tribal areas along the frontier that have been semi-autonomous since the days of British colonial rule.
Most people are crossing from Ghakhi Pass in Bajaur Agency, where a handful of security personnel lack the resources to stop fighters entering Afghanistan.
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