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Foreign journalists in Kashmir escaped Daniel Pearl’s fate

Foreign journalists in Kashmir escaped Daniel Pearl’s fate

One particular page of the National Investigation Agency’s voluminous chargesheet in the Pulwama car bomb explosion, that left 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel dead in February 2019, has sent shivers down the spine of journalists working for the foreign press, from Srinagar to New Delhi.

The chargesheet carries a revelation that at one point of time, Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit’s Pulwama commander, Mohammad Umar Farooq, had decided to massacre all foreign journalists who had gathered in search of the ‘big story’ at suicide bomber Adil Dar’s home after the unprecedented terror strike on the Srinagar-Jammu highway on 14 February 2019.

Fortunately for the press corps, JeM headquarters at Bahawalpur in Pakistan denied permission to kill the foreign journalists as well as those working for the international media, says the NIA chargesheet.

According to the NIA, Umar sent a recorded voice message by WhatsApp from his Samsung S9 mobile phone to the JeM headquarters: <em>‘Bade firangi jamaa hain, udaa dein kya?’</em> (A lot of foreigners have gathered here, should we finish them off?).

“Had the JeM headquarters granted permission, Umar’s men would have killed over a dozen foreigners, along with a number of Indian journalists, who had gathered at Adil Dar’s home and interviewing his parents, Ghulam Hassan Dar and Fehmeda, about their 20-year-old son. Sitting at his hideout in the close vicinity of Dar’s village of Gundbal, Umar had learned from his over-ground workers that a large number of journalists, including foreigners, were present”, said an officer associated with the investigation.

Umar, who played a key role in planning and executing the terror strike on the CRPF convoy, had decided to inform his headquarters, wondering if he would be allowed to “finish off” the foreigners. For unknown reasons, permission was denied to him. “It (killing of foreign journalists) would have definitely brought not only the JeM founder Maulana Masood Azhar and his organisation but also Pakistan under tremendous pressure from all over the world. That fear possibly worked”, said the officer.

After great resistance from China for over two years, India succeeded to get Masood designated as an international terrorist by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in May 2019.

The NIA claims to have retrieved crucial data, including exchange of voice and text messages between Valley-based operatives of JeM and their headquarters in Pakistan, from Umar’s mobile phone. Umar, along with fellow Pakistani cadre Kamran, was killed in an encounter with the police and security forces at Suthsoo Kalan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on 29 March 2019. His phone was recovered from the debris and cracked by the NIA with the help of Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) and some foreign agencies including the FBI.

JeM founder and Umar’s uncle Maulana Masood Azhar, Al-Omar Mujahideen chief Mushtaq Zargar and a detained British terrorist, Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh had been released by the Government of India in exchange for 160 passengers and crew of the Indian Airline flight IC-814, that had been hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999. Umar’s uncle and Masood Azhar’s brother, Ibrahim Athar, was one among the hijackers.

Masood Azhar had been arrested in Anantnag in February 1994. Mushtaq Zargar alias Latram had been arrested in Srinagar in May 1992. Both had been lodged in different jails in J&amp;K . Then working under the banner of Harkatul Jihad-e-Islami, Masood Azhar had entered India via Bangladesh and later travelled to Kashmir. After his release, Masood Azhar dumped Harkatul Ansar and floated a new organisation titled, JeM.

The third terrorist released in Kandahar, Amed Omar Saeed Shaikh, who was believed to have joined Al-Qaeda, was later arrested and charged with the horrific beheading of the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, Pakistan. He was sentenced to death. However, a Pakistani court reversed his death sentence early this year as another Al-Qaeda terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammad had claimed Pearl’s killing during his trial in the US..