Who is Masood Azhar?

Who is Masood Azhar?

In this file photo taken on February 4, 2000, Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, addresses a press conference in Karachi. (Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

India's efforts to ensure that Masood Azhar is listed under the United Nation Security Council's counterterrorism sanctions bore fruit as China lifted its hold on a proposal to blacklist him under the UNSC Sanctions Committee. 

Who is Masood Azhar?

Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a terrorist organisation that operates in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), also known within Pakistan as Azad Kashmir. He is said to have spear-headed four major attacks carried out by the JeM in India. These include the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the 2016 Pathankot attack and the 2019 Pulwama attack. 

Azhar was born in 1968 in Bahawalpur, Punjab, to Allah Bakhsh Shabbir, a headmaster in a government-run school and was the third of 11 children. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade, he went on to join the Jamia Uloom Islamic school, a school in Karachi that follows the traditions of the Darul Ulaam school. The school was linked with the Harkat-ul-Ansar, a Pakistan-based Islamic terror group that primarily operates in Kashmir. He eventually enrolled for a jihad training camp in Afghanistan.

Azhar travelled to both Somalia and England in 1993. During the trip to Somalia, he met with local terror outfits and brought back mercenaries. His England trip involved spreading the word about jihad among Islamic institutions. Azhar gave speeches at Darul Uloom Bury, an important Islamic institution in the UK.

In 1994, Indian officials arrested Azhar in Khanabal near Anantnag. Indian officials said that Masood was travelling under a fake name. In July 1995, a group of people who called themselves Al-Faran kidnapped six foreigners. They demanded the release of Masood in return for the release of the foreigners. Masood wasn't released, however, until 1999. He was eventually released so as to ensure the safety of the passengers aboard the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814 in 1999. 

Upon his release, Masood Azhar started his own terrorist organisation, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, with the help of other terror groups like the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. The JeM also obtained help from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan. 


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In 2001, terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Indian Parliament building, resulting in 14 deaths, which included 5 terrorists. The situation escalated quickly with a military standoff between India and Pakistan. Despite being detained initially for the attacks in 2001, Masood was released by Pakistan on December 14, 2002. 

The JeM has also claimed responsibility for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2016 Pathankot air force station attack. The former claimed 166 lives, in addition to nine attackers. The attack also resulted in more than 300 injuries. 

The JeM also said they were behind the Pulwama attacks on February 14, 2019. The attack killed 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. As tensions rose, the Indian government retaliated and destroyed JeM camps in Balakot, Pakistan.

However, while Pakistan officials conceded the intrusion of the Indian Air Force into Pakistani airspace and that the Line of Control was breached, they claimed that the payloads were dropped into an open area and denied the presence of terror camps. 

China has repeatedly blocked India's move to impose a ban on the JeM. The last technical hold by China came on Nov. 2 when they blocked a proposal by the US, France and the United Kingdom. 

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