Leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, one of two guerilla groups accused in the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament. Azhar became a household name in December 1999 during the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 from Katmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi. On Dec. 24, 1999, five hijackers seized control of the plane and after a brief stop in the Indian city of Amritsar proceeded to Kandahar in Afghanistan. There they negotiated the release of their 155 hostages with the Indian government in exchange for the release of three Islamic militants being held in Indian jails. Along with two other fellow members of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, the Indian authorities released Azhar in a move that was met with widespread criticism across India. Days later, to the embarrassment of the Indian authorities, Azhar made a public appearance in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and pledged to continue the fight in Kashmir to a cheering crowd numbering thousands.
Three years later, one of the three released prisoners, Sheik Omar Saeed, was accused of masterminding the kidnapping and killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002 in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Saeed is facing murder charges in a special Pakistani anti-terrorist court.
Azhar, meanwhile, went on to form the breakaway terrorist unit called Jaish-e-Mohammed. Following the Indian parliament attack, which left 14 people dead, Washington included Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba on the State Department list of terrorist organizations and Pakistan announced a financial crackdown on Jaish-e-Mohammed. But Pakistan has not responded to Indian demands for Azhar's extradition, saying it would take such action once India supplies proof of any group's involvement in the attack.
Chairman and one of the founders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the older and larger separatist groups operating in Kashmir, Amanullah Khan is a hero on one side of the Line of Control and a villain on the other. Although the JKLF was founded in 1977, it was only in 1988 that Khan set up the military wing of the JKLF. Notoriety came in Dec. 1989 when JKLF militants kidnapped Dr. Rubia Saeed, daughter of the then Indian Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Saeed in Indian administered Kashmir. She was released in exchange for a senior JKLF leader, Abdul Hamid Sheikh, who was in detention in an Indian hospital. The kidnapping is widely believed to have added fuel to the latest uprising in Kashmir.
With his long beard, prominent nose and ever-present beret, the supreme commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been a familiar figure since the uprising in Kashmir broke out. Born Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah, he took the name Salahuddin after the medieval Kurdish warrior who fought in the Crusades. But after 12 years of operating in the region, there are reports of schisms in the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks. The differences came to a front in Nov. 2001 when Salahuddin called an extraordinary meeting of Hizbul Mujahideen functionaries to denounce moves by a faction leader who had earlier publicly expressed a desire to consider a ceasefire with the Indian authorities. Salahuddin denounced the declaration and the factional leader, Abdul Majid Dar, was kicked out of the Hizbul ranks.
Maulana Fazalur Rehman