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‘JeM setting training base in Pak`s Punjab’

Last Updated: Sunday, September 13, 2009 - 17:48

London: Outlawed terror group Jaish-e-
Mohammad, linked to 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament and
the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl, is setting up a
large new base just outside Bahawalpur town in Pakistan`s
Punjab province with anti-India inscriptions on its walls.

Pakistani authorities have turned a blind eye to the
6.2 acre base, located in the south of Punjab province, even
though it is believed to serve as a radical madrassa or some
kind of training camp, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
The terror group was formed by Maulana Masood Azhar,
who was released from Indian jail in exchange for passengers
of a hijacked Indian plane in 1999, with help from Pakistan`s
powerful spy agency ISI to be used against India, and the two
organisations are understood to remain close, the report said.

Jaish`s new site, about 5 km out of Bahawalpur at
Chowk Azam, on the main road to Karachi, is much larger, with
evidence that it could contain underground bunkers or tunnels.

Surrounded by a high brick and mud wall, little can be
seen from the road. It has a fully-tiled swimming pool,
stabling for over a dozen horses and an ornamental fountain.

On the inside walls, there are painted inscriptions,
including a warning to "Hindus and Jews", with a picture of
Delhi`s historic Red Fort, suggesting they will conquer it.

While world attention has been focused on the Taliban
in the northwest of Pakistan, the bases of JeM and a string of
other terror groups in Punjab have gone largely unnoticed. Yet
Punjabi extremist groups send thousands of recruits to fight
British soldiers in Afghanistan, it said.

Bahawalpur is a backwater, a dusty, dirt-poor town
that is swelteringly hot in summer.

The town`s isolation allows it to function quietly as
a centre for ideological indoctrination and terrorist
planning. Once mentally prepared, students are dispatched to
the north-west of the country for training in warfare.

Bahawalpur and the surrounding districts also serve as
a safe resting place for militants battling in Afghanistan,
including British-born Muslims, the newspaper reported.

In Bahawalpur alone, there may be around 1,000
madrassas, many of which teach a violent version of Islam to
children who are mostly too poor to go to regular school.
JeM has its headquarters in Bahawalpur and it runs an
imposing madrassa, Usman-o-Ali, in the centre of town. The
group was banned by Pakistan in 2002 and designated by the US
as a "foreign terrorist organisation".

The new JeM facility has deeply worried some Pakistani
security personnel. One described it as a "second centre of
terrorism", to complement the existing JeM madrassa.

He said they initially acquired 4.5 acres, then they
forced the adjacent landowner to sell them another 2 acres.
"It`s big enough for training purposes," he said.

According to the report, it was in Bahawalpur that
British-born al Qaeda militant Rashid Rauf, a member of JeM,
was arrested in 2006. Rauf was reported killed in a US drone
attack last year, but British intelligence agencies believe he
is still alive.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, September 13, 2009 - 17:48

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