Yusuf Azhar alias Mohammad Salim: All you need to know about JeM's second-in-command

Yusuf, who also happens to be the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, was the one who led the hijack of Indian Airline flight IC 814 in 1999.

Published: 27th February 2019 01:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2019 08:15 AM   |  A+A-

A Pakistani soldier stands guard in the area where Indian jets strike in Jaba near Balakot, in Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Yusuf Azhar alias Mohammad Salim, a senior leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was the one who was heading the terror complex in Pakistan's Balakot, which was struck by the Indian Air Force on Tuesday.

Yusuf, who also happens to be the brother-in-law of JeM chief Masood Azhar, was the one who led the hijack of Indian Airline flight IC 814 in 1999.

In exchange of 179 passengers and 11 crew members in the flight, India had to release terrorists the JeM founder and chief Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargari.

Some government sources claimed that Yusuf was killed in Tuesday's airstrike.

However, this could not be confirmed.

In 2002, the government handed over a list of 20 fugitives to Islamabad and it had Yusuf's name who is also identified as "Ustaad Ghouri".

The NIA chargesheet in the January 2016 Pathankot IAF base attack had referred to one "Ustaadji" with whom four Pakistani fidayeens were in touch with at the time of the attack at the air force base.

In 2000, CBI also got an Interpol red notice against Yusuf under the charges of hijacking, kidnapping and murder, but Pakistan never caught him.

Sources said that India has been seeking his extradition from Pakistan under the SAARC and The Hague agreements, but Pakistan fails to even acknowledge that he is on its soil.

Yusuf, along with six others - Ibrahim Athar, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Zahoor Ibrahim, Shahid Akhter, Sayed Shakir and Abdul Rauf, had hijacked the IC-814 plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan on December 24, 1999.

Born in Karachi, Yousuf is fluent in Urdu and Hindi and guides the fidayeen attackers for terror attacks in India.

According to intelligence officials, Yusuf was directly or indirectly connected to Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama attacks.

His pen name "Ustaad" has cropped up during an interrogation of several JeM accused in last few years, they said.

Government sources claimed there were specific inputs that over 300 JeM terrorists including 25 top JeM leaders had gathered at the Balakot terror complex, the biggest camp of JeM in Pakistan, to celebrate the February 14 Pulwama attack and they were planning more such attacks in India.

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