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Masood walks free

Multan, Dec. 29 (Reuters): Pakistan today ended the house arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar, leader of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad, by a court order, police said.

“Police was removed from his house today,” said a police officer in Bahawalpur, the city where Azhar, wanted in India on charges of terrorism, was kept under house arrest since December 2001. A Pakistani court had ordered his release on December 14, but the order was implemented only today, Azhar’s father, Ustad Allah Baksh, said.

“It is a day of freedom for us. A day of freedom for me and a day of freedom for my son,” said the retired government schoolteacher.

Azhar was one of three militants released by India in 1999 in exchange for the freedom of passengers on a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft.

He formed the Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad, soon after his release.

The Jaish and several other Islamic groups were banned early this year as part of a campaign to stem militancy in Pakistan.

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