J&K police nab top Kandahar hijack suspect

The Jammu and Kashmir Police have arrested Mehrajuddin Dand, a terror suspect who allegedly provided logistical support to the hijackers of IC-814.

Zeenews Bureau

Kishtwar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police have arrested Mehrajuddin Dand alias Javed, a terror suspect who allegedly provided fake travel documents and logistical support to the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999.

Police describe him as the most wanted and oldest militant, "involved in a number of militancy related activities both in India and outside".

"Mehrajuddin was main person who arranged for all the logistics for carrying out the Kandahar hijacking. He facilitated the entry of five masked men into the aircraft with guns, knives and grenades and arranged finances for all this," an official said.

Mehrajuddin was taking care of planning and finances. "He was like the top boss giving directions and arranging logistics."

Besides being an important fund raiser, reports claim that the militant is also a top man of the Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and shares links with Dawood Ibrahim. Mehrajuddin is also a close associate of United Jihad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin.
Mehrajuddin, who had been operating in Jammu and Kashmir for the last 25 years, was arrested during an operation in Kishtwar forest belt, a senior police officer told a news agency.

He is also allegedly involved in many terror activities, including 1996 Lajpat Nagar blasts.

Mehrajuddin used to live in Nepal with a Hindu name and has hideouts across India.
On December 24, 1999, IC-814, with 176 passengers on board, was hijacked by five Pakistani militants and forced to land in three different airports -- Amritsar, Lahore, and Dubai - before being taken to Kandahar, the bastion of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In Dubai, Rupin Katyal, one of the passengers, was fatally stabbed by the hijackers.

The aircraft had to spend a week on the tarmac in Kandahar before three terrorists, including Maulana Masood Azhar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, were swapped for the hostages.

Mehrajuddin was one of the first five militants, including Salahuddin, who crossed over into PoK in 1987 to get arms training.

He belongs to militancy affected Sopore town of north Kashmir and was a member of UJC, an umbrella group of several militant outfits.

During interrogation, Mehrajuddin has given details about his relation with Syed Salahuddin and Dawood Ibrahim, who figure in the list of 20 most wanted persons India has given to Pakistan.

Police have described his arrest as a big catch.

Mehrajuddin has worked for almost all militant organisations including Islamic Front, Muslim Mujahiddin, Hizbul Mujahiddin and others.

(With Agency inputs)