France freezes assets of JeM founder Masood Azhar

France freezes assets of JeM founder Masood Azhar

Masood Azhar. (AP/PTI File Photo)

France on Friday imposed sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, even as the latest move at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to bring the terrorist leader under global sanctions was blocked by China.

The decision by the French government may eventually lead to the European Union (EU) designating Masood Azhar as “an individual involved in terrorist acts” and imposing “restrictive measures” on him, including freezing of financial assets linked to him and to the people and organisations providing financial support to him or his terror organisation or any of its fronts from any member nation of the bloc.

France has decided to sanction Masood Azhar “at the national level” by freezing his assets in application of the Monetary and Financial Code, according to a joint press release issued by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Finance and Ministry of the Interior of the French government.

Azhar lives at Bahawalpur in Pakistan. He founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed after his release from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for the 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. The JeM now has several camps across Pakistan and it has been carrying out attacks in India.

A joint decree of the Ministries of the Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the French government was published in the official gazette.

France will use the decree to prod the European Union to put the JeM chief on its list of “persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts”, according to the press release circulated in New Delhi by the French Embassy.

The JeM had claimed responsibility for the February 14 terror attack at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

“France has always been and will be by India’s side in the fight against terrorism,” the French government said on Friday, referring to the attack on CRPF personnel by the JeM.

France, the United Kingdom and the United States — three of the five permanent members of the Security Council — initiated a fresh move late last month at a committee of the UNSC to bring the JeM under international sanctions. Russia, another permanent member of the UNSC, also supported the move.

The initiative went on to secure support from 14 of the total 15 — five permanent and 10 non-permanent members at the Security Council. It was finally blocked by China — the fifth permanent member of the UNSC — on Wednesday.

This was the fourth time that China disappointed India by blocking a move at the UN Security Council to sanction Azhar, ostensibly at the behest of its “all-weather friend” Pakistan. China has, in the past too, blocked several initiatives to impose UNSC sanctions on other terrorists based in Pakistan.

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