The Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested a man they claim is a top militant on suspicion that he may have helped the five men who hijacked the Kathmandu-Delhi Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999. Mehrajuddin Wani alias Mehrajuddin Dand alias Javed Ahmed was picked up in the early hours of Thursday from Kishtwar when he was on his way from Nepal to the Kashmir Valley,police said.
Jammu Zone Inspector General of Police Dilbagh Singh said that although there was no evidence yet to establish that Wani played a direct role in the hijack,the militant who is originally from Sopore had told police that a diplomat from an unspecified embassy in Nepal was deeply involved in the hijack.
Wani knew about the plan to hijack the plane as he was in close contact with the diplomat,Singh said and called him a prized catch.
Wani was headed to Kashmir through Simpthon Top in Kishtwar at the time of his arrest. Police said he claimed he was going to the Valley for treatment at the SKIMS hospital in Soura. But they suspected his trip was aimed at reviving militancy. Wani had also been sending arms,ammunition and hawala money for militant activities in India,Singh alleged.
Wani is also believed to have told police that he knew about the plan to bomb Lajpat Nagar in Delhi in 1996 in which 13 people were killed. Besides,he is supposed to have claimed that he visited the Pakistani office of fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Wani is the fourth man to be held in the hijack case. The CBI had arrested Abdul Latif,Yusuf Nepali and Dilip Kumar Bhujel and they were sentenced to life in jail in 2008 for helping the hijackers procure fake travel documents and take weapons on board the aircraft.
Wani is believed to have become a militant after Kashmirs controversial assembly elections in 1987 and joined the United Jehad Council. State police records say that Wani went missing from Sopore and was living in Pakistan. He allegedly made three visits to the Valley on fake Pakistani passports. He had subsequently moved to Nepal and married a local girl there claiming to be a Hindu,IGP Singh said.
Wanis family,however,claimed he was innocent and asked why he had not been arrested when he visited the state in the past. They said Wani had been living in Nepal for the last 16 years and made trips home in 2006 and 2010. Wani was jailed in Jammu in 1993 and after his release three years later,he moved to Nepal in search of a job and set up a cosmetic shop there,they said.
Wanis brother Abdul Rashid claimed that it was he who had informed the police that Wani was returning from Nepal as he was suffering from a serious illness. If my brother was a wanted militant,why did the police not arrest him then, Rashid asked,referring to Wanis previous visits.
With inputs from Mir Ehsan in Srinagar