India, US to push for global terrorist tag on Masood Azhar’s brother

After being stalled twice by China in its effort to have the United Nations Security Council designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, India and the US have decided to push instead for the same tag for his younger brother and 2016 Pathankot attack mastermind Mufti Abdul Rauf Asghar under the al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, one of the UNSC committees dealing with counter-terrorism.

Born after the 1999 hijack of IC-814 to Kandahar, JeM has close links with Taliban on a common Deobandi ideological platform and has repeatedly targeted India within and outside Jammu and Kashmir.

Two South Block officials confirmed to Hindustan Times that after the move to designate Masood Azhar was blocked by China, last on November 2, India and US counter-terrorism officials agreed to collect and evaluate evidence against 43-year-old Rauf Asghar, who is currently the operational chief of the proscribed group, before moving the committee for global tagging of the terrorist. The matter was taken up in the 15th meeting of the India-US Working Group on Counter-terrorism on March 27 this year.

“Three names were discussed for UN designation of terrorists. First was Masood Azhar, second was his brother and IC-814 hijacking mastermind Mohammed Ibrahim Athar and, finally, the currently most active (member), and another brother Rauf Asghar. It was decided that material evidence against Rauf Asghar should be collected for moving the UN Committee. This way, the Chinese posture would also become clear on whether the veto was limited only to Azhar or is for UN designation of other Pakistan-based terrorists too,” said one of the South Block officials.

Action on Pakistan-based terrorist groups targeting both India and Afghanistan as well as designation of individuals as global terrorists will be one focus of the September 6 two-plus-two talks between India and US foreign and defence ministers. Already, the Jammu and Kashmir police has forwarded a dossier of JeM terrorist groups involvement in attacks in the Valley and South of Pir Panjal ranges to the Centre for action.

According to top NIA officials who investigated January 2, 2016 Pathankot airbase attack, Rauf Asghar was involved in recruiting, planning and executing the terror attack. The decision to attack Pathankot was taken on December 26, 2015 — the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Lahore to extend a hand of friendship to then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. This is evident from a note left by the attackers in the jeep commandeered by them. The JeM was also responsible for attack on Nagrota Army base on November 29, 2016.

According to intelligence agencies, Rauf Asghar is active on social media for JeM and there is December 2017 video/ voice evidence to show the terrorist owing up to both Pathankot and Nagrota attacks inside a Bhawalpur mosque. In this address, Rauf Asghar promises to carry out a bigger attack than Pathankot in the coming months.

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