Pulwama terror attack case: NIA chargesheet names Masood Azhar, his brother as main conspirators

NEW DELHI: The chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack case has named Jaish-e-Muhammed top leadership including chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and deputy Abdul Rauf Asghar, their cousin Mohd Amaar, all based in Pakistan, and Rauf’s bodyguard Mohd Ismail, suspected to be in India, as the masterminds behind the fidayeen strike that killed 40 CRPF personnel.

Among the 19 accused named in the chargesheet — which runs into a whopping 13,500 pages — seven are arrested accused, seven deceased terrorists including Azhar’s and Rauf’s nephew Mohammad Umar Farooq, who NIA says was tasked directly by Maulana Masood Azhar to infiltrate into Kashmir from Pakistan in 2018 for executing the attack.
Importantly, the NIA claims to have cited irrefutable evidence of Masood Azhar being the prime driving force behind the Pulwama attack.

NIA sources said the chargesheet cites a “vitriolic” video of Masood Azhar condemning killing of his nephew Usman Haider in Tral in 2018 and exhorting Kashmiri locals to come forward to avenge the same with ‘shahadat’, saying that it motivated and influenced Pulwama bomber Adil Ahmad Dar to take on the suicide mission.

Not only this, the NIA chargesheet points to Jaish’s plans for a second attack soon after the Pulwama strike.

As per evidence included in the chargesheet, a message of Masood Azhar was passed on to Umar Farooq — IC-814 bomber Ibrahim Athar’s son who was killed barely one-and-a-half months after the Pulwama hit — to abort the second attack planned on a security installation in Kashmir, in view of international pressure and scrutiny Jaish had come under following the Balakot strikes by the Indian Air Force.

This was after the recee of the attack site and route had been done.

“Mufti has asked for the attack to be put on hold,” went the message passed on to Umar, with ‘Mufti’ seen as a reference to Masood Azhar, that led to the attack plan being shelved.
The Balakot strikes, carried out in retaliation against Pulwama attack, had seen cross-border raids by IAF jets on Jaish facilities deep inside Pakistan.

NIA officials said investigation into Pulwama attack revealed that two local Kashmiri bombers were “prepared and trained” by Umar Farooq and others to carry out the fidayeen car bombing. While Adil was chosen and later killed in the attack, the other trained fidayeen too was killed later.

Umer Farooq, said an NIA officer, had trained in Afghanistan in 2016 and 2017 before infiltrating into India in 2018. Since then, he had been working on arranging resources and logistics for the Pulwama attack. “This indicates that the Pulwama terror conspiracy was hatched months in advance by the Jaish brass in Pakistan,” the officer told TOI.

Officials said the chargesheet puts out a digital imprint of Asghar’s communications with nephew Umar Farooq. Farooq was killed in an encounter in J&K in March 2019 along with accomplice and IED expert Kamran.

According to the NIA chargesheet, it was on the directions from the top Jaish leadership based in Pakistan, including Masood Azhar and his deputy Rauf Asghar, that a local Jaish fidayeen hailing from Pulwama, Adil Ahmad Dar, had driven an explosives-laden car into a CRPF convoy, killing 40 force personnel. Sources said there is a mention of the role of Pakistan-based elements in the Pulwama conspiracy, though a direct reference to Pakistani state agencies like ISI has been avoided for now.

The chargesheet names seven accused arrested by the investigators since February this year — overground Jaish worker Shakir Bashir Magrey who provided shelter to and drove Adil to the attack site; Tariq Ahmed Shah and Ishan Jan who harboured the perpetrators; Waiz ul Islam who used his Amazon online shopping account to buy chemicals used to make the IED; Mohd Abbas Rather who sheltered the Jaish terrorists in the run-up to the attack; Mohd Iqbal Rather who facilitated movement of Pakistani IED maker Umer Farooq to Kashmir after he infiltrated from Pakistan into Jammu in 2018; and Bilal Ahmed Kuchey who arranged shelter for Jaish terrorists behind the strike and also provided the mobile phone used to record video clip of the bomber Adil prior to the attack.

Other key terrorists involved in the attack but are already dead include Muddasir Ahmad Khan, (JeM’s Divisional Commander of South Kashmir killed in an operation by security forces on 11-03-2019) Pakistani terrorists viz. Muhammad Umar Farooq and IED expert Kamran, (both killed on 29-03-2019) the owner of the car fitted with IED Sajjad Ahmad Bhat r/o Marhama, Anantnag (killed on 16-06-2019) and Qari Yassir, JeM’s Commander for Kashmir (killed on 25-01-2020).

The chargesheet puts out a digital trail of communications and messages to establish the link between the accused who executed or facilitated the attack and the Pakistan-based Jaish masterminds.

Source: Times of India

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