LeJ demands Rs 130 mn for release of Gen Majid`s son-in-law

Amir Aftab Malik was kidnapped by armed men in August last year.

Last Updated: Feb 10, 2011, 15:59 PM IST

Islamabad: Al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militant group has claimed responsibility for abduction of the son-in-law of a former top Pakistani General and demanded Rs 130 million and release of 153 arrested terrorists for setting him free, more than five months after the kidnapping.

Authorities have received a video message from Amir Aftab Malik, the 35-year-old son-in-law of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman Gen Tariq Majid, in which he states he is in the custody of militants belonging to the banned LeJ.

Malik, a jeweller from Lahore, was kidnapped by armed men in August last year.

In the video message, a visibly shaken and bearded Amir states that his kidnappers want the payment of Rs 130 million as ransom and the release of 153 militants being held in prisons across the country, `The News` daily reported today.

The video shows masked militants carrying Kalashnikovs in the background.

Security officials investigating the first incident involving the abduction of a close relative of an army general said the video did not give a deadline for the acceptance of LeJ`s demands.

They said Malik is being held in North Waziristan tribal region by Punjabi Taliban militants led by Matiur Rehman, the chief operational commander of LeJ and one of FBI`s most wanted al Qaeda-linked militant commanders.

Among the 153 terrorists whose release has been sought by the kidnappers are Malik Mohammad Ishaq, a founding member of LeJ currently being held in a Lahore jail; Akram Lahori, another top LeJ leader being held in a Karachi jail; and Mohammad Aqeel alias Dr Usman, who was captured after a terrorist attack on the Army`s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10, 2009.

Investigators said the main motive behind Malik`s abduction could be the role played by his father-in-law, Gen Majid, in the 2007 military operation against radical elements holed up in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad.

Majid, who retired in October 2010, was the commander of the Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps at the time of the Lal Masjid operation. He was in-charge of troops who stormed the Lal Masjid.

Soon after the operation, Majid was promoted by then military ruler Pervez Musharraf to the post of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

The officials said a copy of Malik`s video message had been provided to his family, which also received a phone call from the kidnappers.

The abductors allowed the family to have a brief conversation with Malik. The case is now being handled by top security and intelligence agencies, which are reportedly trying to broker a deal between the family and kidnappers.

Police had registered a case following a complaint by Naseem Malik, the brother-in-law of the kidnapped man.

The complaint said Amir Malik was abducted by about a dozen armed men shortly after he reached his home in Lahore on August 25, 2010.

Malik`s driver was also kidnapped though he was later released.

LeJ militants had also tried to hijack a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 03, 2009 to use the hostages as a bargaining chip to demand the release of detained militants, investigators said.

The LeJ had issued an `eilan-e-umumi` or general announcement after the Lal Masjid operation that said the group would take revenge against all those responsible for the raid on the mosque.

About 100 people were killed during the operation.

Those named in the LeJ`s announcement included Musharraf, then ISI chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (now the Army chief), then Military Intelligence chief Maj Gen Nadeem Ejaz and then Rawalpindi Corps Commander Gen Tariq Majid.

On October 30, 2007, hardly three weeks after Gen Majid was promoted to the post of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a check post outside his official residence in Rawalpindi, killing seven people and injuring 31 others.

PTI