A hotel in Delhi’s posh Chanakyapuri area, which houses the diplomatic enclave, was the first stop of Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad, when he first arrived in India in January 1994 and dodged immigration officials’ queries about his Portugese passport by claiming he was a “Gujarati by birth”.
The Pakistan-based terrorist, who was arrested in Jammu and Kashmir within the next two weeks, had also stayed in capital’s hotel Janpath and visited Lucknow, Shahranpur and Islamic seminary Darul-uloom Deoband, according to his interrogation report.
Azhar, whose JeM was responsible for a series of terror strikes in India including the attack on Parliament in 2001 and a CRPF convoy in Pulwama last month, had arrived in India on a fake Portuguese passport after visiting Bangladesh.
“I spent two days in Dhaka and thereafter travelled to Delhi by Bangladesh Airlines (Biman), reaching the IGI Airport in early hours of January 29, 1994. The Immigration officials at IGI commented that I did not look like a Portuguese but when I replied that that I was a Gujarati by birth, he did not hesitate to stamp my passport.
“I hired a taxi and asked (the driver) for a good hotel. I was taken to the Ashok hotel in Chanakyapuri where I stayed,” according to the interrogation report available with the security agencies here.
During the night, Azhar told his interrogators, that he rang one Ashraf Dar, a Kashmiri, who came to the Ashok hotel along with Abu Mehmood, a member of terrorist group Harakat ul-Ansar.
“I expressed my desired to visit Deoband to pay obeisance at the graves of Deobandi intellectuals. As such Ashraf Dar escorted me in his Maruti car, accompanied by Abu Mehmood to Deoband. We stayed in Darul-uloom Deoband for the night. After offering prayers at Deoband, next morning we went to Gungoh and then proceeded to Saharanpur,” the report said.
At Saharanpur, Azhar stayed for the night at a mosque of Tabliq-ul-Jamat and at none of these places, he had revealed his true identity. On January 31, 1994, he came back to Delhi by the same car after staying overnight at Khan Ji of Maulana Masir-ul-ullah Khan at Jalalabad.
On reaching Delhi, Azhar stayed at hotel Janpath located near Connaught Place. Since his flight to Srinanagr was booked for February 9, he decided to visit one Maulana Abu Hassan Nadvi alias Ali Mian at his madrassa in Lucknow.
Accordingly, Azhar went to Lucknow in a bus on February 6 or 7, 1994, where again he did did not disclose his identity.
As he could not meet Ali Mian and another another person whom he intended to meet, Azhar returned to Delhi by bus. This time, he stayed at hotel Sheesh Mahal in Karol Bagh.
In all Delhi hotels, Azhar registered himself in the assumed identity of Portuguese national Vali Adam Issa.
“In Delhi, on February 8, 1994, I visited the Centre of Tablig-ul-Jamat at Nizamuddin but did not meet any particular person. I had also purchased 12 compasses (to give direction of Mecca) from Nizammudin to offer them as gift to militants in the Kashmir valley,” he told the interrogators.
After his arrival in Srinagar on February 9, 1994, Ashraf Dar escorted him to Madrasa Qasmian in Lal Bazar where a room was arranged for him.
Later in the evening a militant, Sajjad Afghani, came to meet him along with his deputy named Amjad Bilal of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, who was armed.
Next morning, on February 10, he was escorted by Afghani to a place called Matigund where all Pakistan/PoK terrorists gathered.
“They (the terrorists) were happy about my visit and merger of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. I had taken their addresses and letters so that I can communicate their welfare to their families on return to Pakistan,” he told the interrogators.
While returning from Matigund, accompanied by Afghani and one Farooq, a militant of Matigund area, who was armed and had a wireless set, the car developed some trouble and stopped.
Then Azhar and his accomplice boarded a three-wheeler and proceeded to Anantnag. After travelling for about 2-3 km, the auto rickshaw was stopped by the Army personnel, according to the report.
“Farooq started running and opened fire which was returned by the Army men. Farooq managed to escape but I along with Afghani was arrested,” he told the interrogators.
Azhar was freed from an Indian prison in 1999 along with two other terrorists in exchange for passengers of an Indian Airlines aircraft which was hijacked and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan. PTI