The death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last week ended one of the most intense and aggressive manhunts in the world. The race for the unofficial title of the world’s “most wanted” individual is open again.
Several countries and agencies, such as the European Union and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), release lists of their most wanted criminals from time to time. In India, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) released a ‘most wanted’ list in 2018. Until 2011, Forbes magazine published a list of the ‘World’s Most Wanted’.
The Rewards for Justice (RFJ) programme of the US Department of State comes out with region-wise lists of most wanted terrorists. Here are some individuals whom law enforcement agencies around the world are most eager to capture or kill.
Ayman al-Zawahiri has a bounty of upto $25 million on his head, the largest in the Department of State’s RFJ programme. His bio on the RFJ site describes him as “the current leader of the al-Qa’ida terrorist group and a former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad” who was “indicted in the US for his role in the August 7, 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 civilians and wounded over 5,000 others”.
Al-Zawahiri is believed to have plotted, along with Osama bin Laden and others, “the attacks on the USS Cole in Yemen on October 12, 2000, which killed 17 US sailors and injured another 39, and helped coordinate the September 11, 2001 attacks… (that left) nearly 3,000 people dead”.
According to the bio, “Al-Zawahiri now leads a small but influential cadre of senior leaders widely called al-Qa‘ida Core”… and the group and “its affiliates in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East remain a resilient organisation committed to conducting attacks in the United States and against American interests abroad”.
Also, “Al-Zawahiri continues to record and disseminate messages”, and al-Qaeda retains its “ability to continue some attack preparations while under sustained counterterrorism pressure”, which “suggests it may be plotting additional attacks against the United States at home or overseas”.
This Pakistan-based terrorist has masterminded multiple terrorist attacks in India and, despite an RFJ bounty of upto $10 million on his head, he continues to roam free, put up candidates for elections, and address large public meetings.
According to the RFJ site, “Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a former professor of Arabic and Engineering, as well as the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a radical Ahl-e-Hadith Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Saeed is suspected of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 166 people, including six American citizens.”
Haqqani is the leader of the Haqqani Network, a terrorist group that wants to bring Afghanistan back under Taliban rule. According to the RFJ website, Haqqani has admitted to having planned the April 2008 assassination attempt on then Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and has coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Haqqani is believed to be located in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. He too has a bounty of $10 million on his head.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah
Abdullah is also a senior al-Qaeda leader and a member of its leadership council, the majlis al-shura. While he was arrested in Iran in 2003, he along with other terrorists were released in 2015 in exchange for an Iranian diplomat. According to the Department of State, “Abdullah is an experienced financial officer, facilitator, and operational planner for al-Qa’ida.” He has a bounty of $10 million on his head.
Sayf al-Adl heads al-Qaeda’s military committee, and was among the terrorists released by Iran in September 2015 along with Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah. He too, has a reward of upto $10 million on his head.
“As early as 1990, al-Adl and other al-Qa’ida operatives provided military and intelligence training in various countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sudan, for the use of al-Qa’ida and its affiliated groups, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad,” the RFJ site says.
Most wanted in India
Fifteen names on the NIA’s list of 258 people are from Pakistan. These include Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed and Sajid Majid. The NIA list contains some prominent Maoist leaders.
Mupalla Lakshman Rao
The man with the highest bounty on his head in the NIA list is the Maoist leader from Telangana, Mupalla Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathy. Rao, who is in his 70s, stepped down last year as general secretary of the banned CPI(Maoist), citing ill health and old age.
In September, in an interview published in his party’s banned mouthpiece People’s March, Ganapathy said that the revolutionary movement in India had weakened over the past eight years. “Coming to our subjective mistakes and weaknesses, we considerably lost leadership cadres and subjective forces. The party couldn’t formulate new programmes and tactics. There were shortcomings in the campaign to rectify non-proletarian tendencies in the party and so couldn’t achieve expected results,” he said.
Nambala Keshava Rao
Ganapathy’s successor as the head of the CPI(Maoist) is Nambala Keshava Rao alias Basavraj. He is considered to be an expert in IEDs and has good knowledge of military strategy. Before taking over as general secretary of the CPI(Maoist), he was chief of the the outfit’s Central Military Commission. Basavraj carries a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.