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The hijacking of IC 814 in 1999 was key point in anti-India terrorism. When a plane-load of people were flown to Karachi by the hijackers, popular sentiment was for meeting the demands of the hijackers. Among these was the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, who was complicit in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Now this piece of history is in the news again, as India Today reports:

The Chile police has detained a man who could turn out to be one of the key conspirators behind the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in 1999 by Pakistan-based terrorists who had commandeered the plane to Kandhar.

A CBI team is likely to fly to Chile, a CBI spokesperson said, to verify and question Abdul Rauf, a Pakistani national, who the agency believes could be one of the key financiers of the Kandhar hijacking plot.

It is, however, not clear if the detained man is the same Rauf against whom the Interpol had issued a red corner notice (A-566/6-2000) for his involvement in the sordid drama which had resulted in the then NDA government releasing three dreaded terrorists to get 178 passengers and 11 crew members freed. The hijackers had killed one passenger.

Rauf is a brother-in-law of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of banned terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad, who was the most high profile of the three terrorists freed by the government.

What has made the CBI’s job difficult is that it has little personal details of the accused. Neither his photograph nor his finger prints are with the agency.

The Chilean police has sent his finger prints to the agency but it was of no use in absence of the accused’s original finger prints. Strangely, the CBI has not added to the information that they had collected against Rauf, despite the fact that the hijacking happened around 12 years back.

Rauf was born in 1974 and hails from Bhawalpur in Pakistan, according to the CBI. The CBI’s chargesheet in the case had included him as one of the seven accused who remain at large. A CBI court had convicted on February 5, 2008, three other accused, Abdul Latif, Dalip Kumar and Yusuf Nepali, for their role in the conspiracy and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

Abdul Latif had told the agency in his confessional statement that Rauf, along with Yusuf Azhar, brother of Masood Azhar, had crisscrossed India and Nepal several times as they planned to hijack the Nepal-bound plane.

India’s response is reported by IE:

A two-member team has been sent to Chile in connection with the reported detention of Abdul Rauf, wanted in connection with the IC-814 hijack.

Officials pointed out that there have been two false alarms in the past. Following the red corner notice issued by Interpol, a man named Abdul Rauf was detained in Seoul in 2004. Another man by the same name was detained in Lebanon in 2005.

Rauf, brother of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, is alleged to have financed the 1999 hijack. The two-member team, which left today, includes an official of the Intelligence Bureau and another of the CBI. A crucial lead that the investigators are pursuing is the voice sample of Rauf, which led to the arrest of his co-conspirators.

Behind-the-scenes activity on this case, now public due to Wikileaks, also shows the US to be an unreliable ally, as the Hindu reports:

More than three years later, India was still pushing for its “pending requests”. In March 2005 and again in May that year (Cable 29497: confidential, March 24, 2005; 32567: confidential, May 13, 2005 ) the Ministry of External Affairs handed over identical “non-papers” — diplomatic jargon for an informal memorandum — to U.S. Embassy officials in New Delhi, reiterating the requests.

Both times, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert O. Blake transmitted the non-papers to Washington, along with the response from the Embassy Legal Attache, an FBI position in U.S. diplomatic missions.

In both instances, the Legal Attache had the same response: “Legatt noted that the FBI has shared all its information relevant to the hijacking of IC-814 with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s lead federal law enforcement agency, but has not acquiesced on requests it deems ‘fishing expeditions’.”

The only addition he made to his response in May was that he had not conveyed the FBI’s “fishing expedition” sentiment to India.

However, Mr. Blake added that the MEA request showed “senior-level attention to the IC-814 matter and perception at that level that the USG has been less than fully forthcoming.”

Making an “action request,” he urged that “we need to bring an end to this ongoing cycle of requests […] and a clear negative response would be preferable to perpetuating a fruitless dialogue. The FBI has reportedly exhausted its ability to cooperate, and we should directly inform both CBI and MEA to that effect, with specific confirmation on what evidence is or is not in US possession.”

Later that year, Mr. Blake sent another cable on the subject (45536: secret, November 18, 2005), this time urging Washington to take the Indian request seriously: cooperate more.

Reason: MEA Joint Secretary (Americas) S. Jaishankar had told him and the Embassy Political Counselor at a meeting on November 18 that “a USG failure to respond to earlier information requests […] regarding the hijacking of IC-814 could infringe on the broader US-India law enforcement/intelligence relationship.”


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

April 13, 2011 at 4:28 am

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