As India announced details of the Indian Air Force (IAF) strike on the Jaish training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot early on Tuesday, it became evident that one of the main targets was Maulana Yusuf Azhar. He was running what has been described as the biggest training camp of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). This was confirmed by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale when he briefed the media about the “pre-emptive” strike on “non-military” targets. The pre-dawn strike by the IAF was in response to the February 14 Pulwama attack that left 40 CRPF personnel dead.
Here Is What You Need To Know About Maulana Yusuf Azhar
- Also known as Ustad Ghouri and Mohammad Salim, he is the brother-in-law of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar and is on the most wanted list of the Indian authorities as well as the Interpol.
- Yusuf Azhar had led the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in December 1999 while it was on its way from Kathmandu (Nepal) to Delhi.
- There were over 170 passengers on the flight, which the hijackers forced to fly to Kandahar in Afghanistan. One of the passengers, Rupan Katyal, died after being stabbed by the hijackers.
- In Kandahar, the hijacked aircraft was surrounded by armed members of the Taliban who were in control of Afghanistan at the time.
- The hijackers demanded the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, who was in jail in Jammu and Kashmir, in exchange for the release of the passengers on board.
- Masood Azhar was freed along with two other terrorists to ensure the release of the passengers.
- A special Indian aircraft flew the three to Kandahar, accompanied by then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and senior Indian officials, to facilitate the exchange.
- The name of Maulana Yusuf Azhar figured in a list of 20 fugitives that India had handed over to Pakistan in 2002.
- India also approached Interpol which put out a notice for his arrest for hijacking, kidnapping, and murder. According to the notice, Yusuf Azhar was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and spoke Urdu and Hindi.
- India has said that “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated” in Tuesday’s strike in Balakot. It has, however, not confirmed if Yusuf Azhar was one of them.