SRINAGAR/JAMMU (TIP): Intelligence sources called the arrest of Mehrajuddin Wani alias Javed Dand —one of the terrorists who arranged logistics for the Kandahar hijackers—a big catch, and the terror suspect appeared to conform to that billing when he, according to the J&K police, disclosed that the diplomat of an unspecified embassy (in Nepal) was closely involved in the 1999 hijacking plot.
“We are investigating all this,” said Dilbagh Singh, IGP of Jammu. Intelligence sources in Delhi said that he could shed new light on hijackers, who had killed one young Indian traveler, Rupen Katyal, and how they managed to pull off the audacious hijacking. The hijacking, in which the then Taliban regime had colluded, resulted in the release of three terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar, Mustaq Ahmed Zargar and Omar Saeed Sheikh, in exchange of hostages of the ill-fated aircraft.
Azhar had set up one of deadliest terror outfits Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM), while Sheikh ended up kidnapping and murdering the Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. The hijacking, which dealt a heavy blow to BJP’s “tough-on-terror” credentials, embittered the already strained ties with Pakistan that allowed Azhar and Sheikh to roam in full public view and carry on with their anti-India activities.
The IGP said that police, acting on specific intelligence inputs, launched a search operation and arrested Mehrajuddin – a close associate of United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin as well as underworld don Dawood Ibrahim – on Jammu-Srinagar highway while he was travelling from Nepal to Kashmir on Wednesday night. “We suspect that his services have been used (in the hijacking).
He was there (in Nepal) when the aircraft was hijacked in 1999,” Singh said. Mehrajuddin, undergoing treatment for brain tumour in Nepal, was on his way to Sopore to meet his family members and relatives. Police suspect that Mehrajuddin — once an ordinary tailor at Nigeen Bagh in Sopore — has strong links with Pakistan’s ISI, and is also believed to be engaged in raising funds for terror activities. He is also suspected to be involved in smuggling weapons, ammunition and fake currency into India with the help of the diplomat