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UN Adds Pakistan-Based JeM Leader Azhar To Global Terror List

FILE: Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e Mohammad group chief Masood Azhar, as they protest against Pakistan in Mumbai on February 15.
FILE: Indian Muslims hold a scratched photo of Jaish-e Mohammad group chief Masood Azhar, as they protest against Pakistan in Mumbai on February 15.

The United Nations has added Masood Azhar, the leader of a Pakistan-based Islamist group, to its list of global terrorists after the organization claimed responsibility for a February suicide attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers.

The UN sanctions committee on May 1 announced the action against Azhar, who heads Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM), over its ties to the Al-Qaeda terror organization.

The UN was freed to impose the restrictions after China ended moves to block the action to blacklist Azhar. Beijing had put a technical hold on a fourth request for sanctions on Azhar from the United States, Britain, and France in March.

The sanction move will include a freeze on Azhar’s international assets, a ban on global travel, and an arms embargo.

The sanctions committee did not cite the Kashmir attack but said Azhar is linked to terrorism for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities" carried out by JeM.

JeM itself has been designated on the UN global terror list since 2001. The group was founded by Azhar after he was released from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines flight that had been hijacked to Kandahar.

JeM claimed responsibility for the deadly February 14 attack in disputed Kashmir that raised tensions between India and Pakistan and led to a retaliatory air strike by India inside Pakistan.

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting militants in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two nuclear archrivals but claimed in full by both since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The countries have fought two wars over the region.

India hailed the UN action, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling a campaign rally that the decision was "late, but it's the right thing." He described it as a "success of India's long-term fight against terrorism."

Pakistan, meanwhile, stressed that the designation of Azhar had nothing to do with the February attack, which New Delhi blamed on Islamabad.

Pakistan has denied any involvement in the attack, one of the deadliest attacks on Indian security forces.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told reporters that it would be "false and baseless" for India to claim that the sanctions on Azhar were a victory for New Delhi.

Bushra Aziz, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said the country remained dedicated to countering terrorism, and he also criticized India's actions against residents of Kashmir.

A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council said the U.S. administration commended the move to sanction Azhar.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, AFP, Reuters, and AP

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