Masood Azhar, the founder of Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, is suspected to be suffering from renal failure and is under regular dialysis at an army hospital in Rawalpindi in Pakistan, officials in New Delhi said on Saturday.
This suggestion by security officials came after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the Jaish chief is “unwell”.
“Recent reports indicate that Masood Azhar is now afflicted with renal failure and is under treatment and regular dialysis at the army hospital in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistan Army,” a senior security official said.
Qureshi had said on Thursday: “He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house, because he’s really unwell”.
The minister had further said that India must share unalienable evidence to take action against JeM.
“India needs to give us evidence that is acceptable in the courts of Pakistan, after all, we will have to justify it in the courts of Pakistan so if they have unalienable evidence share it with us,” he had said.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed chief was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, terror motivator in several African countries and also known by many as the Pakistani cleric who brought jihad into the religious discourse at mosques in the UK, the official said.
The influence of the 50-year-old terror mastermind was so huge that, when he was released by India in exchange for freeing the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 on December 31, 1999 in Kandahar, Laden hosted a banquet for him the same night.
In the banquet, bin Laden recalled how he and Masood Azhar had first worked together in 1993, the official said.
Masood Azhar was arrested for preaching jihad in Jammu and Kashmir in 1994. One of his British recruits, Omar Shaikh, as a member of the terrorist group Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), kidnapped four western tourists in India in 1994 in order to secure the release of Masood Azhar.
However, security agencies succeeded in releasing the hostages and arresting Omar Shaikh.
Again in 1995, five western tourists were kidnapped by HuA and eventually killed in order to gain the release of Masood Azhar.
Almost immediately after Masood Azhar’s release, Jaish-e-Mohammed was formed and it carried out its first suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2000 by striking the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar.
The 24-year-old bomber, Asif Sadiq, was one of Masood Azhar’s earliest recruits and student from Birmingham. At this time, Masood Azhar also began using several al-Qaeda recruits.
In 1979-1989, after he suffered injuries in the Soviet-Afghan War, he was chosen as the head of Harkat-ul-Ansar’s department of motivation. In the early 1990s, Masood Azhar became the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar and visited international locations to recruit, raise funds and spread the message of pan-Islamism.
Among his destinations were Zambia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Albania.
He also went to Kenya to meet an al-Qaeda affiliate of Somalia in 1993 and in August 1993, Masood Azhar entered the UK for a speaking,
fund-raising, and recruitment tour with the message of jihad.
Masood Azhar made contacts in Britain with people who helped to provide training and logistical support for terrorist plots.
In January 1993, Masood Azhar visited Bangladesh along with Sajjad Afghani, a terrorist leader to facilitate the intrusion of Afghani to India.
Masood Azhar was part of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen or Harkat-ul-Ansar, when he was arrested in 1994 in India for spreading hate.
Masood Azhar formed Jaish-e-Mohammed after his release in 1999 when Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was hijacked and taken to Kandahar. Since then, the Jaish has been involved in terror attacks in the country.
The terror group was responsible for the attack on parliament on December 13, 2001 in which nine security personnel and officials were killed.
On January 2, 2016, a heavily armed group of Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Pathankot airbase in which seven security personnel were killed.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed also carried out the attack on Uri brigade headquarters on September 18, 2016, killing 17 soldiers and injuring 30 others.
On February 14, Jaish carried out a suicide attack on a CRPF bus in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, killing over 44 soldiers.
After this, tensions escalated between India and Pakistan with IAF bombing the JeM camps across LoC on February 26, followed by which Indian and Pakistani fighter jets engaged in an aerial combat attracting global concerns.
(With PTI inputs)