Jaish Chief – Masood Azhar Among 19 Accused In Kashmir Bombing: Indian NIA

India’s National Investigation Agency has named Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar and six other “Pakistani nationals” among the 19 accused of carrying out a 2019 suicide car bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir in which 40 paramilitary troops were killed.

The agency, which filed a 13,800-page charge sheet against the accused in a court in Jammu on Tuesday, said the attack was the “result of a well-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the Pakistan-based leadership of the terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed.”

While six of the accused have been killed, including three Pakistani nationals, the agency said another six absconded, including Azhar and three other Pakistan nationals. Seven people have been arrested in the case.

“The investigation has revealed that the Pakistan-based JeM leadership consisting of Masood Azhar, Rouf Asgar and Ammar Alvi…were continuously giving directions and guidance to the Pakistani JeM terrorists (who had infiltrated into India) both before and after the attack,” the statement said.

The NIA said JeM had also planned to carry out another suicide attack which “got averted” due to airstrikes by India in the town of Balakot and the killing of main conspirator Umar Farooq by security forces.

 “Further, due to international pressure, Pakistan lied low,” it said, adding that the investigation also revealed “a well-crafted mechanism by the Pakistani establishment to push terrorists into the Indian Territory.”

India, which accuses Pakistan of providing a sanctuary to JeM, which has been banned in Pakistan since 2002, has also accused Azhar of colluding with Pakistani intelligence agencies in the deadly attack on the paramilitary convoy.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has not commented on the issue yet.

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors flared in the aftermath of the bombing on Feb. 14 last year, which culminated with both sides claiming to have downed each other’s warplanes.

Pakistan, which denied the charges, launched a fresh crackdown on banned militant groups across the country, including JeM, and arrested dozens of members, including a brother and son of its leader.

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China. Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in the Siachen glacier region in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A ceasefire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. Thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989, according to several human rights organizations.