The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unlucky 39 helps BSF blow Baba’s cover

New Delhi, Aug. 30: Perhaps his latest code names 39 and Amir brought bad luck to Gazi Baba and good news to the security forces.

When the Border Security Force (BSF) G directorate (intelligence wing) got information that some militants were holed up in Noorbagh, they were not aware that Gazi Baba — the prime conspirator in the December 2001 Parliament attack — was among them.

But the code names helped the BSF stumble onto their prize catch when they surrounded the militants at a house in Noorbagh. BSF sources said after cornering the militants the force intercepted wireless messages in the code name of “39”, confirming that Gazi Baba was trapped inside.

Gazi Baba, alias Abu Jihadi alias Saqlain, had been giving cops the slip after masterminding some of the most deadly attacks, among them the strikes on Parliament and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. But today was not his day.

Delhi police special cell officials handling the Parliament attack case say Gazi Baba was a hardcore militant, a strategist and a motivator.

His influence on militants in the Valley can be gauged from what Mohammed Afzal, one of three militants facing the death penalty for the December 13, 2001 attack, had to say. “Cadre would compete between themselves to die first when Gazi Baba invited them for jihad,” Afzal said.

Another distinctive feature of Gazi Baba’s style of functioning was that he never trusted anyone and would give instructions to hitmen for an operation strictly on a one-on-one basis, Afzal said.

Gazi Baba was also said to be always on the move, flitting from one operation to another.

He hatched the conspiracy to strike Parliament by himself, at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Joint commissioner of police (special cell) Neraj Kumar said Gazi Baba was the architect of the attack, with Tariq Ahmed and Afzal next in the hierarchy, executing his instructions.

Afzal’s interrogation provides a detailed account of Gazi Baba’s role in the Parliament attack.

Sometime in April 2001, Tariq, who is yet to be traced, approached Afzal, who had renounced militancy. Tariq managed to convince Afzal to take up the cause of insurgency once again.

Tariq took him to a mobile terrorist camp in south Kashmir’s Pehalgam jungle. It was there that Afzal met Gazi Baba, surrounded by 12 armed bodyguards, for the first time.

Afzal said the camp was spread along a 1-km radius, adding that there were three such camps in Pehalgam jungle at the time.

Gazi Baba handed Afzal an audio cassette and literature on Jaish-e-Mohammad, headed by Masood Azhar, one of the three militants released after the IC-814 hijacking in 1999.

During interrogation, Afzal said even after the first meeting Gazi Baba would not reveal his plans; nor did he immediately recruit him into his tanzeem (outfit). Instead, Gazi Baba asked him to meet up after five weeks, during which time Jaish’s India commander was asked to verify his antecedents.

Another group led by Mohammed, who later led the fidayeen squad inside the Parliament complex, was sent to Delhi to set up base towards the end of September 2001. Mohammed was shot dead during the gunfight in the Parliament complex.

Gazi Baba’s name cropped up in police files again when Afzal went to Kashmir in October that year to hand over Rs 5 lakh.

This was part of the Rs 20 lakh hawala money which was wired from Dubai to Tariq and meant for Gazi Baba, for financing the attack.

Tariq and Afzal met in a Batmalu mosque in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk, where details on a possible strike in Delhi and the Rs 5 lakh were exchanged.

Afzal says even in October he was not aware of Gazi Baba’s plan to attack Parliament. It was only towards the end of November, when a meeting with Gazi Baba was held in Srinagar, that it was revealed that the Parliament was going to be attacked.

Delhi police’s special cell sources said Gazi Baba provided two fidayeen — Rana and Hamza — explosives, AK-47s, grenades and grenade-launchers for the attack. After the attack, the special cell managed to arrest Afzal, Shaukat Hussain, his wife Navjot Sandhu alias Afsan Guru, and a Delhi University lecturer, Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani.

But Gazi Baba proved elusive despite several raids in the Valley. Delhi police officials are relieved at the news of Gazi Baba’s killing.

But a senior police officer remarked: “Had he been caught alive, we would have come to know who in Pakistan had hatched the conspiracy and the precise role of the ISI.”

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