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Pakistan Arrests Leader Of Banned Kashmiri Militant Group

Maulana Masood Azhar, November 17, 2003
Maulana Masood Azhar, November 17, 2003

Pakistan has arrested the leader of an outlawed militant group that has fought Indian rule in Kashmir for decades in a sweep of militants suspected of attacking an Indian air base this month.

In addition to putting the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Maulana Masood Azhar, into "protective custody," Pakistani authorities said January 15 they had closed several religious schools run by the group, which India charges was behind the attack that killed seven Indian soldiers on January 2.

The moves were in answer to Indian charges that Pakistan has been harboring the radicals. Concern about the attack led India to postpone previously scheduled talks between the two regional powers this week.

India says that phone intercepts suggest the gunmen in the assault on Pathankot air base came from Pakistan, though a Kashmir-based group, United Jehad Council, has claimed responsibility.

India has long sought Azhar, who is being held by Pakistani counterterrorism officials

While no charges have been filed against Azhar as yet, G. Parthasarthy, India's former high commissioner to Pakistan, said that "what has happened is setting the process for custodial interrogation. It doesn't amount to presumption of guilt or arrest."

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters