As pressure mounts on Pakistan after Pulwama suicide attack, it has placed 44 terrorists ‘under-observation members of prescribed organisations’ in preventive detention for investigation. The list also included Abdul Rauf, brother of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar. Pakistan national Rauf was the key financer of the project.
Rauf was among the main conspirators who planned and executed the hijacking of the Indian Airlines Flight 814, commonly known as IC 814. The flight was in route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on December 24, 1999.
In the first week of September 1999, the five hijackers—Ibrahim Athar, Sunny Ahmed Qazi, Shahid Sayeed Akhtar, Zahoor Ibhrahim Mistri and Shakir—met at a rented flat in Bangladesh’s Dhaka Subzi Mandi area. Abdul Latif and Abdul Rauf were also present.
Ten persons worked closely for over six months with one single motive—freedom for Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief Maulana Masood Azhar, who was then incarcerated in Jammu.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the story of the hijack begins in July 1998 when Maulana’s brother-in-law Yusuf Azhar first contacted Abdul Latif to start working on freeing Maulana. After a failed jailbreak attempt in June 1999, a hijack conspiracy started shaping up.
Athar, who had been working on the plan in Kathmandu for over a year, told the others that the Indian Airlines flight could be easily hijacked from Kathmandu.
Athar told the other conspirators that “the Indian passengers only needed an identity card or driving license,”. It was decided that the plane would be hijacked and taken to Afghanistan. The conspirators decided that if the Indian Government did not concede to their demand for the Maulana’s release, the plane would be blown off and the hijackers kill themselves.
Athar told Latif to go back to India and arrange documents to pass off the hijackers as Indian citizens. For the next two months, Latif worked overtime to secure documents for every person involved. In the last week of October 1999, two of the conspirators, Shahid Sayeed Akhtar and Yusuf Nepali, arranged for three grenades and three revolvers from Kalimpong with the help of Dilip Kumar Bhujel.
On December 13, all conspirators met again at the Kathmandu Zoo as mastermind Athar gave finishing touches to the plan. It was decided that Athar would enter the airport with hand grenades and revolvers. As soon as he passes the security check, he would give a signal to Sunny Ahmed Qazi (Burger) and Shakir (Shankar) to enter the airport. Reportedly, Latif purchased business class tickets for the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Delhi for himself as well as Athar and Qazi, who have assumed the names of A A Shaikh and S A Qazi. For the other three—Shahid Sayeed Akhtar (doctor), Zahoor Ibrahim Mistri (Bhola) and Shakir (Shankar)—he buys executive class tickets.
The flight was flown to several locations before landing in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was accused of the hijacking with the support and active assistance from ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
Masood Azhar was arrested in Kashmir several decades ago and released in 1999 in return for the 155 hostage passengers of the IC 814. Soon after, Azhar founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed in 2000 with the motive to free Kashmir, which operates with the motive of separating Kashmir from India and merging the province with Pakistan.
The February 14 attack in Pulwama on the convoy of CRPF was claimed by Azhar’s terror group.