NEW DELHI: Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar had stayed in Delhi’s top luxury hotels, including Ashoka Hotel located in the vicinity of the diplomatic area, in early 1994 before he journeyed to Kashmir to brief militant leaders on the merger of Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HuJI) and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) into a new outfit called Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA).
Azhar, who entered India on a forged Portuguese passport issued in the name of Vali Adam Issa with a valid Indian visa, arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport from Dhaka on a Bangladesh Airlines flight on January 29, 1994. In fact, when immigration officials pointed out that he did not look like a Portuguese, he got off by telling them he was of Gujarati origin. These disclosures were made by Azhar during his interrogation following his arrest in Anantnag on February 11, 1994, details of which have been accessed by TOI.
China draws ire of other UNSC members for saving Jaish chief Masood AzharA day after Beijing used its veto to stall the sanctions committee’s near-unanimous decision to designate Azhar a terrorist, a Security Council diplomat said China should not prevent the UN panel from doing its job, and Beijing’s move to hold the listing was "inconsistent with its own stated goals of combating terrorism and furthering regional stability in South Asia."
Azhar, who was then secretary general of HuA, took a taxi from the airport and asked for a good hotel. He was driven to Ashoka Hotel in Chanakyapuri when he stayed that night. He later met Abu Mehmood, the ‘emir’ (Jammu) of HuA, and Ashraf Dar and expressed his desire to visit Deoband to pay obeisance at the graves of Deobandi leaders. Azhar and Dar left for Deoband by car and stayed at Darul Uloom Deoband that night. The next morning, they left for Saharanpur and stayed at a mosque there.
On January 31, 1994, Azhar returned to Delhi and stayed at Janpath Hotel near Connaught Place. There he met three Pakistani terrorists who were in Delhi for medical treatment.
Since he was to fly to Srinagar only on February 9, 1994, he visited Lucknow by bus to meet his contacts Maulana Ali Mian and Maulana Noomani but could not meet either. He returned to Delhi and stayed at Sheesh Mahal Hotel, Karol Bagh. On February 8, he visited Tabligh-ul-Jamaat in Nizamuddin. He also purchased 12 compasses (to show Mecca’s direction) from Nizamuddin as gifts for militants in Kashmir.
During all these trips and hotel stays, Azhar gave his identity as Portuguese national Vali Adam Issa.
Azhar arrived in Srinagar on February 9, 1994, and met Sajjad Afghani, with whom he would be arrested later, and HuJI deputy chief commander Amjad Bilal. During discussions, Azhar narrated developments leading to merger of HuM and HuJI. They decided that Azhar would be taken to Kapran area the next morning to meet mujahids. However, as he was returning after meeting militants in Matigunj, he was arrested.
During his interrogation, Azhar revealed how he came under the influence of HuM at Jamia Islamia, Karachi. In June 1989, he met HuM ‘emir’ (Karachi) Fazal-ul-Rehman Khalil and on his advice went for training at Yavar, Afghanistan. Stoutly built, he could not complete the 40-day training and it was waived off. It was during his stay at Yavar camp that Azhar first met Sajjad Afghani. In January 1993, Azhar would accompany Sajjad to Dhaka to launch him in Kashmir via Bangladesh route.
After his training at Yavar, Azhar started an Urdu publication in August 1989, which publicised HuM activities and collected donations up to Rs 8 lakh per year in Maulana Fazal-ul-Rehman’s account.
Azhar visited many countries including Zambia, where he collected Rs 44 lakh over two trips in 1991 and 1992. During his month-long visit to the UK in October 1992, he visited mosques in Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leicester etc and collected donations worth Rs 15 lakh.
Not many donations came from the UAE, where the system of donations is well-regulated, and he could collect only Rs 3 lakh. In Saudi Arabia, he was politely turned away as HuM owed allegiance to Jamiat-ulema-Islam whereas donations there mostly went to Jamiat-ul-Islah ally Jamaat-e-Islami, PoK. In Sharjah, Azhar’s efforts to collect donations did not meet success as it had good relations with India. However, due to influence of some maulanas, they could collect Rs 6 lakh.
In Kenya, he met Ittehad-e-Islami leaders and UAE terrorists and was asked to build pressure on the Pakistan government to seek withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Somalia.