Pulwama attack: NIA to file chargesheet today; name Masood Azhar and Pakistan

Pulwama attack: NIA to file chargesheet today; name Masood Azhar and Pakistan

 

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will file a chargesheet on Tuesday afternoon in the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack case, naming Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf Asghar, several other commanders of the militant outfit and seven arrested person accused for their involvement in the bombing at Pakistan’s behest, officials familiar with the matter said. Forty Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in the attack that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

The over 5,000-page charge sheet has been completed after an investigation by a team of deputy inspector general Sonia Narang and police superintendent Rakesh Balwal. It will be filed before a special NIA court in Jammu.

The officials cited above said the charge sheet has irrefutable evidence–technical, material and circumstantial evidence–on Pakistan’s role in the attack. It cites the roles of the JeM leadership and the arrested accused in the attack and has details like chats, calls details of militants.

HT reported first this month that NIA will name Pakistan and its spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for planning and executing the state-sponsored attack, for which highly-trained militants were sent to India.

NIA probe has revealed that Pakistan used Adil Ahmad Dar, a local resident who rammed an explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, as a suicide bomber to project the attack as a result of a home-grown militancy against “India’s occupation of Kashmir”, one of the officers cited above said.

Azhar, who founded JeM in 2000 after he was freed from an Indian prison in exchange for 155 passengers of a hijacked aircraft, and Asghar have been named as the primary accused in the charge sheet.

Seven alleged JeM operatives arrested from Kashmir since February, Shakir Bashir Magrey, Mohammad Abbas Rather, Mohammad Iqbal Rather, Waiz-ul-Islam, Insha Jan, Tariq Ahmad Shah, and Bilal Ahmed Kuchey, have been named for “conducting reconnaissance, providing logistics and assisting in planning the attack”.

The names of Pakistani militant Mohammad Umar Farooq, who was sent to India to execute the attack, Kamran, JeM’s area commander, Mudassir Khan, and Adil Ahmad Dar also figure in charge sheet but not as accused as they have been killed. Farooq, Kamran, and Mudassir Khan were killed in March 2019 in separate exchanges of fire with security forces.

Azhar was among those India designated as individual terrorists in 2019. The move came following an amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists. The US has similar laws for such designations and the 2019 move opened an added avenue for joint action against militants.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied his country’s role in the Pulwama attack and even offered to prosecute the culprits if India provided evidence. Islamabad has not, however, taken any substantive action against global militants operating from its soil, including Azhar even as it has been under pressure from the international community.

NIA’s probe has concluded the explosive material for the attack was collected over a period of time from mining blocks and locations used by cement factories for blasting rocks in Khrew (Pulwama), Khunmoh (Srinagar), Tral, Awantipora, and Lethpora.

The NIA charge sheet also details the email, text, and social media communications of key players in the bombing, including Azhar’s brother.

The Pulwama attack threatened to spark a full-blown conflict between India and Pakistan. JeM claimed responsibility for the attack and prompted India to carry out an airstrike on a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. Pakistan retaliated a day later and triggered a brief dogfight involving warplanes of the two countries. (HT)

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