New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday issued arrest warrants against Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother Abdul Rauf and two others for allegedly conspiring to carry out terror strike on the strategic Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.
A special NIA court based in Mohali issued the 'open-ended non-bailable warrant' against Azhar, his brother, main handlers Kashif Jaan and Shaid Latif for allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy with JeM terrorists for carrying out a terror strike on the IAF base.
The special court issued the arrest warrant after weighing the evidence presented by NIA before it which included telephonic conversation between the terrorists and the Jaish handlers like Jaan and Latif.
The video of Rauf, brother of Azhar, was also presented before the court. In the video which was uploaded on a website being hosted from Pakistan, Rauf had claimed responsibility for the attack and complimented his boys for it. The video has since been removed and the website has also gone off the cyber world.
NIA has already sought voice samples of Azhar and three others from Pakistan's Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which came to India for carrying out a probe in the Pathankot terror probe.
The non-bailable warrant will be sent to Interpol. India had built a strong case for proscribing Azhar as terrorist at the UN but the move was vetoed by China.
An Interpol Red Corner notice is already pending against Azhar for being allegedly involved in the conspiracy behind attacks on Parliament and Jammu and Kashmir state assembly.
Similarly an Interpol Red Corner Notice is pending against Rauf in connection with the IC-814 hijacking case of 1999.
India has complained to Pakistan about the slow pace of probe in the Parliament attack case and Azhar being given a free hand to continue with his anti-India rhetoric. Islamabad has not heeded to India's demands to bring to book Azhar and other JeM top brass.
In the meantime, NIA said that after posting the pictures of the four dead terrorists on its official website, more information was coming from across the world which included many people from Pakistan who were eager to share details pertaining to the slain militants.
The four terrorists were identified as Nasir Hussain (Punjab province), Abu Bakar, (Gujranwala), Umar Farooq and Abdul Qayum (both from Sindh).
In a bid to take its ongoing investigation forward, the NIA had recently approached probe agencies of some foreign countries including the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The help of the agencies were sought even as central probe agencies still await a formal response from Pakistan for allowing a NIA team to that country for a thorough investigation.
The NIA had also approached other international agencies regarding the weapons and other equipment seized from after the 80-hour gun battle with the terrorists at Pathankot.
The probe agency had earlier conveyed to the Pakistani JIT, which was headed by Additional Inspector General of Police, Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai and also including ISI's Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, that the cooperation was extended in accordance with terms of reference mutually agreed on the basis of reciprocity and that it was waiting for a permission to visit that country.
The NIA had also sent a Letters Rogatory to Pakistan for which a response was still awaited.
As per media reports, NIA had also provided all the evidence to the Pakistani JIT on the basis of written requests submitted by them to the central probe agency.
The terrorists entered the air base and mounted the brazen assault on the intervening night of January 1 and 2. In the fierce encounter that ensued, seven security personnel besides four terrorists were killed.
(With Agency inputs)