Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Pak financier of Indian Airlines hijack arrested in Chile?

Hijacked jet on the runway at Kandahar Airport in 1999
Indian news organisations are reporting that a man arrested in Chile last week in possession of a false passport may be Abdul Rauf, a Pakistani terrorist accused of financing and coordinating the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines passenger jet from Kathmandu to Kandahar, via Amritsar and Lahore.
The aircraft and its 11-member crew and 179 passengers was hijacked by five armed men who eventually landed at Kandahar and demanded the ransom of a number of Pakistani jihadis imprisoned in India. They killed one of the passengers in the eight-day stand-off before the Indian authorities agreed to release three men: Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Mushtaq Zargar, a Kashmiri separatist leader and Ahmed Omar Sayeed Sheikh, a British-educated Pakistani who was later convicted of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Taliban officials facilitated the handover of prisoners, which took place on the runway at Kandahar in the presence of the-then Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh. All three men lived openly in Pakistan following their release, despite the fact that they had all been convicted of terrorist offences in India.
Rauf, who is brother-in-law to Azhar, is said to have sent money to the hijackers and also rented a flat in Dhaka where the hijackers fine-tuned their plans.
Two senior Indian police officers left for Chile yesterday in order to confirm Rauf's identity. His arrest was brought to their attention via Interpol. His last recorded presence in Pakistan was in October 2009 when he was called in by Pakistani authorities to help negotiate the release of 42 people taken hostage by pro-Taliban militants who had occupied part of an army base in Rawalpindi.
* The Indian team sent to Chile appear to have ruled out the man detained in Chile as being Abdul Rauf, although inquiries are continuing.


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