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Tale of militants' motivation and reach

Tale of militants' motivation and reach

Author: S. Raza Hassan
Publication: Dawn
Date: April 14, 2009
URL: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/sindh/tale-of-militants-motivation-and-reach--za

A former army officer, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of film-maker and distributor Satish Anand, has told his interrogators that he used his military expertise in favor of militants and the Taliban fighting government forces in the tribal areas.

Retired army major Haroon Ashique alias Abu Khattab was arrested by the Islamabad police for his alleged links with extremist and militant outfits. However, during interrogation he turned out to be the ringleader of a gang who kidnapped Satish Anand in Karachi and transported him to the country's lawless tribal areas.

The retired army officer's disclosures sent a chill of fear down the spine of his interrogators as he told them that different militant outfits active in the restive tribal areas have reportedly identified their potential targets in urban localities as part of their fund generation plans.

The broad daylight kidnapping of the chief executive of Eveready Pictures, Satish Anand, was an example of their preparedness. Anand was kidnapped in Karachi on October 20, 2008 and recovered from Bannu after remaining in captivity for around six months.

An LeT operative

According to officials who had interrogated the retired major, Haroon Ashique, 43, was commissioned in the Pakistan Army in 1987 in the 76 PMA long course. However, he sought premature retirement as a major in 2001.

Hailing from Panjeri in district Bhimbar, retired major Haroon Ashique was a resident of Taj Bagh Harbanspura, Lahore.

The interrogators said that in 2000 former soldier Ashique, then an army officer, along with his younger brother (also an army officer), Captain Khurram, met the chief of now banned Laskhar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, and his top operational commander, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

After getting retirement from the army, retired major Ashique joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba and became an adviser to its operational commander Lakhvi. He also worked as a trainer and made improvised mortar guns.

However, in December 2003 he developed some differences with commander Lakhvi and later on he parted ways with the LeT.

Brother dies in Helmand

The retired major told his interrogators that his younger brother Capt Khurram, who served in the elite Special Services Group, also left the army in 2003 to join the LeT. However, he also quit the LeT.

After parting ways with the LeT, the retired major started rice and garments export business in Karachi but in 2006 he wound up the business and moved to Lahore where he opened up a generators business, the interrogators told Dawn.

They said that his younger brother, retired captain Khurram, also joined him. However, it was in December 2006 when the retired major went to Wana where he met Taliban commander Mullah Nazir. He later visited Miramshah where he met another jihadi commander, Ilyas Kashmiri.

In 2007, his brother Khurram went to Afghanistan's Helmand province to fight against the coalition forces. In March 2007 he was killed while fighting alongside the Taliban.
The interrogators said that in April 2007, the retired major visited Miramshah where he met Commander Ilyas Kashmiri again.

During 2007, he met Kashmiri twice and taking advantage of his military background, he helped him and Mullah Nazir in Wana in modifying 60mm mortars.

The kidnapping plan

However, when the retired major visited Commander Kashmiri in September 2008, he was informed that 'mujahideen' were facing financial problems and were in dire need of funds.

In a bid to ease out financial problems, the retired major gave a proposal to Commander Kashmiri regarding kidnapping affluent people living in urban areas for ransom to generate funds.

The interrogators said that at that time the retired major also suggested that he had a potential target in Lahore. However, commander Kashmiri asked him to spare the target for a while and concentrate on another target in Karachi.

The investigators said that film-maker Satish Anand was the target and Commander Kashmiri was aware all his details and routine while sitting in the tribal areas.

Commander Kashmiri asked one of his militants, Nawaz, to give all intelligence including marked maps of Mr Anand's movement from home to office to retired major Ashique.

The retired major knew Nawaz from 2003, as he was also an LeT activist. Both Ashique and Nawaz went to Karachi to confirm the intelligence about Mr Anand and they stayed at a hotel located near the Cantt Railway Station.

Major Ashique contacted his friend Basit, another retired army major, and asked him to assist him in kidnapping the film-maker. Initially retired major Basit was reluctant but later agreed to help major Ashique for old time's sake, the interrogators added.

They said that unlike retired major Ashique, Basit did not subscribe to any extremist ideology and in fact he reportedly agreed to take part in the kidnapping for monetary gains.

Retired major Ashique and Nawaz returned to Lahore on September 26, 2008 for Eid and they returned to Karachi in October on a non-custom paid 4X4.

The retired major had bought three new cellphones and SIM cards and arranged an Alto car on rent. Meanwhile, Nawaz went back to Miramshah and returned again with two more persons, Irfan and Waheed, along with some funds for the job.

The role of retired major Basit in the kidnapping was only limited to providing information to retired major Ashique that Mr Anand had left his residence along with his driver on the morning of October 20, 2008.

Acting on his information, retired major Ashique and his three accomplices intercepted Mr Anand's vehicle and the kidnappers administered sedative injections to both Mr Anand and his driver.

The kidnappers shifted unconscious Mr Anand to their vehicle and sped away to leave the city without wasting any time. They reached Miramshah on October 21 via Shikarpur, Sukkur, Kashmore, DG Khan, DI Khan and Bannu.

Since Commander Kashmiri was not present in Miramshah, the retired major went to Razmak area where he handed over Mr Anand to his custody.

Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alvi's killing

Investigators pointed out that Commander Illyas Kashmiri was picked up by the Inter-Services Intelligence back in 2003, but was later released.

The interrogators told Dawn that Illyas Kashmiri also ordered the execution of sacked Major-General Amir Faisal Alvi, who was credited with masterminding the Angor Adda operation against militants in 2004. In 2005, he was sacked by former military ruler Pervez Mushrraf.

Maj-Gen Alvi was killed by three unknown gunmen on November 19, 2008 when he was heading towards his private office in his car along with his driver in the outskirts of Islamabad.

The interrogators said that Illyas Kashmiri had paid Rs125,000 to retired major Ashique for killing Maj-Gen Alvi. By killing General Alvi the militants took revenge for the death of a top Al Qaeda operative, Abdul Rehman Kennedy, who was killed while fighting alongside the Taliban in Angor Adda, interrogators said.

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