Iranian intelligence officials had allegedly released a lieutenant of al-Qaeda’s South Asia chief from prison even after learning that he was a jihadist fighting against US-led forces in Afghanistan, according to Indian Express report. It comes even as the CIA released papers purportedly showing that al-Qaeda and Tehran cut a deal to allow the jihadist group to route personnel through its territory. The accused has been indetified as Muhammad Asif and hails from Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh. Asif is now being in New Delhi. The details were never made public because of its potentially damaging diplomatic repercussions, the report says.
“Efforts were made to seek details on Asif’s case from Tehran. Iran did not come back to us with anything. Iranian cooperation is important for India to secure its interests in Afghanistan, so we chose not to make an issue of this matter,” a senior government official was quoted as saying by IE.
The negotiations are contained in a tranche of over 470,000 documents purported to have been recovered from slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s safehouse in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Instead of notifying Indian authorities of Asif’s arrest, Iranian officials handed him over to a narcotics trafficker who arranged for him to cross into Turkey along with five others, the documents show. In Istanbul, Asif claimed to be an illegal immigrant who had lost his passport, and succeeded in obtaining emergency documentation from the Indian consulate within days.
The case has drawn renewed attention because of fears that several Indian jihadists known to have been fighting with the Islamic State in Syria could be seeking to return home after the fall of its de-facto capital, Raqqa. “Iran’s apparent willingness to let some jihadists travel through its territory, as well as the ease with which emergency documentation was obtained by an individual whose travel records should have raised red flags, point to serious vulnerabilities of the system,” the official said.