Clues in Times Square probe lead to Karachi mosque-run by JeM



Karachi: Pakistani intelligence officials are tracing links between Times Square bombing plot suspect Faisal Shahzad and the banned terror group Jaish-e-Muhammad- led by Maulana Masood Azhar.

This search has led investigators to the sprawling, marble-floored Batha Mosque and a religious school in a crowded neighbourhood of Karachi which was once provincial headquarters of the JeM and which is visited at times by the elusive militant leader, who was released from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane.

The mosque patronised by the JeM is under scrutiny and security and intelligence sources say there is a link being established between Faisal and the people running the mosque.

The sources who declined to be named said the security and intelligence officials had questioned four persons picked up from the mosque for possible links with the Times Square bombing suspect and attempt.

"Possible links have emerged as we try to track down the movements of Faisal when he visited Pakistan in the last few years," one source said.

The source said that US law enforcement officials were also being updated on the ongoing investigations. "There is a link that this mosque was being used to recruit young people by the Jaish-e-Muhammad," one source said.

The mosque located in the north of Karachi in a lower middle class locality has been frequented by the Jaish activists in recent months.

"There are indications that the mosque had links with the banned outfit and they are regular congregations held that are patronised by the banned outfit," one source stated.

The Jaish-e-Muhammad was established in 2000 by Maulana Azhar to train militants to fight against India.

JeM has been blamed for many terrorist attacks on civilian and military targets and has also been accused of killing US journalist Daniel Pearl.

The group has links to Afghanistan dating back to the war against the Soviet occupation.

The security and intelligence sources said that they were investigating possible links between Faisal and the mosque as one of Faisal's friends who was arrested this week was a Jaish member.

The detained Jaish member is said to be Muhammad Rehan who offered prayers regularly at the mosque.

The security and intelligence sources said they were trying to ascertain whether it was possible that Faisal might have been in touch with al Qaeda and Taliban sympathisers or activists when he last visited Pakistan and stayed in Karachi for three months.

One official said that Rehan was questioned because of his background but nothing clear had emerged as yet.

Another official said the focus on the mosque was there because it had served as the provincial headquarters of the JeM before the outfit was banned in 2002 by the President Musharraf government in its crackdown on militant outfits.

PTI