Omar takes responsibility for strikes inside India -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Omar takes responsibility for strikes inside India

KARACHI- Sheikh Omar Saeed, who had confessed about his role in the kidnapping of American reporter Daniel Pearl, has told police investigators that thousands of Pakistanis committed to free Kashmir from Indian forces would resist the government current anti-Jihad drive and the Pearl kidnapping is a warning shot for the government, well informed officials disclosed here.

Continuing interrogation of Sheikh Omar by the Sindh police officials, for the first time, has provided concrete indications that the extremist religious forces were gearing up to frustrate the government long term objective to free Pakistan from radical Islamic forces and the Pearl kidnapping was carefully staged to launch a counter offensive by anti-Gen Pervez Musharraf extremist forces, officials said.

For the first time also, moderate officials in security services said broad indications are available to suggest that some of the recent terrorist attacks in India were aimed at provoking Indian leadership to take some hard-line action against Pakistan so that the president is forced to mend fences with radical Islamic forces at home.

“Some extremist forces have come in open to blackmail the government agencies by threatening to expose the black secrets,” commented a ranking security official. “We knew that on this new path to moderation we’d ultimately meet this ugly turn.”

Claiming that his “brothers” were making their presence felt and will continue to do so “on every inch of Indian landscape”, Omar has shocked his investigators by narrating his role and that of his “Jihadi colleagues”, in the bomb explosion outside state parliament building in Srinagar in October last and shooting incidents in the compound of Indian parliament in New Delhi and outside the American Centre building in Kolkata in December and January last.

Most Pakistani security officials believe that Omar was blatantly lying about his role in most publicised terrorist cases, only to earn an image of a hero so that he gets maximum media attention here and abroad. Without mincing any words the government of Pakistan had described the incidents in Srinagar, New Delhi and Kolkata as “reprehensible acts of terrorism”.

“Now caught red-handed Omar wants to hedge his position against a possible death sentence in the kidnapping case,” guessed a senior Pakistani security official. “Omar is one hell of a cunning character.”

Before leaving for an official tour of the United States last week, President General Pervez Musharraf has raised the possibility of Indian involvement in the Pearl kidnapping case by questioning in a Washington Post interview as to why Maulana Masood Azhar, Jiash-e-Mohammad chief, and Sheikh Omar Saeed were not tried and convicted while being imprisoned in India “for seven long years”.

While speaking to various police officials here and in Lahore over the past one week, Sheikh Omar not only briefed his police interrogators on his role in the Pearl Kidnapping case and on the terrorist strikes in India, but also provided police officials specific details of his travel to Afghanistan “a few days after September 11” to have a personal meeting with Osama bin Laden near Jalalabad.

Omar doesn’t hide, police officials said, his ties with several other Arab associates of Osama. Several independent reports and interrogation of two other suspects in Daniel Pearl Kidnapping case have independently confirmed Omar’s deep connections in Taliban leadership and his status as a guerrilla warfare instructor in one of the key training facilities in Afghanistan.

Salam Saqib and Sheikh Adil, two key suspects who had played the central role in sending two e-mails attached with the photographs of the kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter, have told the police that Sheikh Omar was widely respected in Afghanistan and was considered a role model even for the most famous warriors in the Pakistani Jihadi community.

“We still don’t believe that Omar was an active al-Qaeda member,” said a senior police official. Pakistani official sources have said the US federal agents currently investigating the Pearl kidnapping case along with Sindh police officials in Karachi were only focussing the kidnapping side and they have not questioned any of the arrested suspects, including Sheikh Omar, from any other specifically “the al-Qaeda angle”.

Police officials said they have not heard any thing sensational from Sheikh Omar or other suspects in the Pearl case on Taliban or al-Qaeda, while at the same time they never seemed to be hiding anything about their Indian operations from their Pakistani interrogators.

For instance Sheikh Omar provided police with unsolicited specific details about his connections and relationship with Aftab Ansari – chief suspect in Kolkata shooting case. Giving details of his communications with Aftab Ansari to police investigators, just a few days before the shooting incident in Kolkata, Sheikh said he had cultivated Ansari, while they were both jailed in Tihar prison in New Delhi in late nineties.

Five policemen were killed just outside the American Centre building when four persons riding on two motorbikes sprayed bullets on bystanders on January 21.

Through a telephone call to a Kolkata newspaper from Dubai, Aftab Ansari, an Indian gangster, had taken the responsibility of the incident — branding the incident as his revenge against the state police. Aftab was later arrested and swiftly extradited to India by Dubai authorities.

Discussing the shooting incident inside the Indian parliament building which had left 17 people including five unidentified attackers killed on December 13, Sheikh Omar is understood to have offered police officials the real identities of the Kashmiri militants who had stormed the Indian parliament with an aim at making Indian parliamentarians hostage to seek the release of all Kashmiri freedom fighters from Indian prisons.

Omar, who languished in Indian prisons for about five years after being arrested on kidnapping charges in New Delhi in 1995, is now spending time in Pakistani lockups lecturing his police investigators about the physical torture that is being given to the arrested Kashmiri militants by the Indian police in interrogation centres all across India.

Sheikh Omar said the militant who gave his life while exploding a bomb-laden car just outside the state parliament building in Srinagar on October 2 was “more than a brother to me”. Omar said the deceased suicide bomber was a Pakistani who had devoted his life to the freedom struggle in Kashmir.

More than 30 people were killed and about 100 wounded in the explosion outside the parliament building. The incident was in series of suicidal bombing called Fidayen attack in the Indian held Kashmir.

Throughout his interrogation Sheikh Omar continued to repeat that “thousands of people were now ready in India and Pakistan to sacrifice their lives to free Kashmir from India and to turn Pakistan into an ideal Islamic state.” Three senior police officials have separately confirmed that during his interrogation Pearl kidnapping suspect Sheikh Adil — cop who had taken two years leave from the police intelligence wing to participate in Jihad in Afghanistan — repeatedly asked his interrogators to let him go on a suicidal mission anywhere in India. “Adil argued that instead of making a case for death sentence against him, he should be allowed to go on an unspecified suicidal mission in Kashmir,” informed a police official. “He is damn serious about his task.”

Similarly, Salman Saqib — second suspect in the Pearl kidnapping case, who proudly shows the bullet wounds on his body from his gunbattles with Indian soldiers in Kashmir, is also “least diplomatic”, as one police officials described, in proving his commitment to Kashmir. “Why do you want to penalize me when I am prepared to give my life. Instead of killing me in Karachi let me be killed doing some thing great in Kashmir,” Salman baffled his interrogator who was using usual Karachi police techniques to extract information from him at an interrogation cell last week.

In a remarkable coincidence, Pir Mubarrak Ali Gillani, who was earlier thought to be a suspect in the Pearl kidnapping case, had recounted his services for the state security services before being released by the police in Karachi.

Like other suspects in the Pearl case, Gillani was also driven by the zeal to win independence for Indian Kashmir. Although Sheikh Omar owes his loyalties to Maulana Masud Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad, he claims very close relationship with all Jihadi forces, particularly with Hafiz Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Since September 11, says Omar, the active Jihadi groups have forged an unannounced unity and have pledged to jointly resist the government intentions to force Jihadi groups to curtail their activities. Along with Maulana Masud Azhar, Sheikh Omar Saeed is included in the list of 20 people the Indian government has issued for an extradition from Pakistan.

President General Pervez Musharraf has categorically stated that he wouldn’t extradite any Pakistani citizen to India, but he would order immediate arrest and trial of the Pakistanis found involved in any illegal activity in India.

Omar — a British citizen, became the focus of US attention in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping case when he not only confessed masterminding Pearl’s kidnapping, but also divulged the names and telephone numbers of the people who were given the custody of Daniel Pearl after he was picked from outside a downtown Karachi hotel on January 23.

Omar Sheikh has told his Pakistani and American investigators that he believed that Daniel Pearl was gunned down by his captors while escaping from a Karachi safe house, only a few days after the kidnapping. Omar feels that Mansur Hasnain alias Hyder — who was also involved in the hijacking of Indian airliner in the end of December 1999 may only have definite information about the present whereabouts of the dead or alive Daniel Pearl.

A nation-wide manhunt for Mansur Hasnain alias Hyder has not yielded any clue about him or his mentors.

Source: The News