India asks Pakistan to hand over wanted criminals

India asks Pakistan to hand over wanted criminals

New Delhi: Ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan in the wake of the attacks on Mumbai, India has demanded that Islamabad hands over 20 most-wanted criminals and militants.

Among the most notorious are Dawood Ibrahim, a reputed gangster with suspected militant links; Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of feared militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad; and Hafiz Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group suspected of launching the Mumbai attacks.

Here is are brief profiles on the three men:

Dawood Ibrahim

India’s most wanted man for his part in the country’s most deadly bombings, the 52-year-old underworld boss eluded authorities for the past 15 years. He is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

In 1993, Ibrahim, and his brother Anis, allegedly masterminded India’s worst bombings, which killed at least 250 people and wounded more than 700 in Mumbai.

The son of a lowly police constable, Ibrahim was a police informant from a young age. By the 1980s and 1990s, he had graduated from petty crime to become one of Mumbai’s top gangland leaders, with a billion-dollar vice empire spanning gambling, drugs and prostitution.

In October 2003, the United States designated Ibrahim as a global terrorist with links to Islamist militant groups al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The US Treasury froze his assets, and accuses him of drug-running to western Europe and Britain.

Ibrahim was mysteriously spirited away after reportedly being wounded in gunfight at a Karachi hotel in August, 2007.

Maulana Masood Azhar

First came into the international spotlight in December 1999 when India was forced to free him from jail along with two other militants, in exchange for the release of crew and passengers of an Indian Airlines plane that had been hijacked from Kathmandu in Nepal and taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Azhar fought in Afghanistan, but really made his mark in writing propaganda and making speeches in support of the cause.

Unconfirmed reports say he surfaced in Sudan, Somalia and Yemen and had contact with Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s.

He became a leader of the Pakistani militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. In 1994 he was captured in Indian Kashmir, and tried for terrorism. Although acquitted, he spent six years in jail until he was sprung by the hijacking.

After returning to Pakistan, Azhar formed Jaish in 2000. There was considerable speculation he had the support of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Jaish’s affiliated charity, al Rasheed Trust, helped raise funds. - Azhar maintained ties with the Taliban, and Jaish fighters trained at camps along with al Qaeda members in Afghanistan.

In Kashmir, Jaish, like Lashkar, used “feyadeen" tactics, sending fighters on suicidal missions.

In December 2001, a group of gunmen attacked the Indian parliament. India blamed Jaish and LeT. As relations deteriorated, India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed since 1998, went to the brink of a fourth war.

Jaish was banned by Pakistan, along with LeT and several other groups in 2002, and Azhar was put under house arrest, only to be freed by a Lahore court 10 months later.

Hafiz Saeed

A professor of Islamic Studies, Saeed’s family migrated to Pakistan from Simla in northern India during the bloody Partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

Saeed has headed Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity front for Lashkar, since publicly quitting the militant wing days before it was banned following the attack on the Indian parliament.

In 1990 he founded Lashkar to fight in a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir, where it earned a reputation as one of the best organised and fiercest groups. Lashkar was responsible for an attack on Red Fort in Delhi in December, 2000.

Lashkar, like Jaish, was based in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab. Its headquarters, now JuD’s, was in Muridke. American commanders says Lashkar fighters are also operating in East Afghanistan.

JuD activists, some carrying arms, were at the forefront of earthquake relief work in Kashmir in 2005, and in the western province of Baluchistan last month.