NEW DELHI: Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is suspected to be afflicted with renal failure and is under regular dialysis in an army hospital in Rawalpindi in Pakistan, officials said here Saturday.
This suggestion of security officials came after Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the JeM chief is "unwell".
"Recent reports indicate that Masood Azhar is now afflicted with renal failure and is under treatment and regular dialysis at the army hospital in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistan Army," a senior security official said.
Qureshi said Thursday: "He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can't leave his house, because he's really unwell".
The Jaish-e-Mohammad chief was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, terror motivator in several African countries and also known by many as the Pakistani cleric who brought jihad into the religious discourse at mosques in the UK, the official said.
The influence of the 50-year-old terror mastermind was so huge that, when he was released by India in exchange for freeing the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft IC-814 on December 31, 1999 in Kandahar, Laden hosted a banquet for him the same night.
In the banquet, Laden recalled how he and Azhar had first worked together in 1993, the official said.
Azhar was arrested for preaching jihad in Jammu and Kashmir in 1994.
One of his British recruits, Omar Shaikh, as a member of the terrorist group Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), kidnapped four western tourists in India in 1994 in order to secure the release of Azhar.
However, security agencies succeeded in releasing the hostages and arresting Shaikh.
Again in 1995, five western tourists were kidnapped by HuA and eventually killed in order to gain the release of Azhar.
Almost immediately after Azhar's release, Jaish-e-Mohammad was formed and it carried out its first suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir in April 2000 by striking the Badami Bagh cantonment in Srinagar.
(With PTI inputs)