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‘Pak soldier’ on suicide run
‘Desertion’ link to Kasab home district

Srinagar/Islamabad, Dec. 23: Jammu and Kashmir police today claimed to have arrested a serving Pakistani soldier and two Jaish-e-Mohammed militants, who allegedly entered India through the Bengal-Bangladesh border and spent a day and a half in Calcutta.

Whether or not the “army regular” claim has any substance may hinge on a crucial digit — zero — missing from the man’s alleged belt number as cited by the state police’s official release.

Ghulam Farid is from 10 AK (Azad Kashmir) Regiment, Jammu and Kashmir police chief Kuldeep Khoda said, and the release gave the belt number as 4319184. Khoda said Farid had joined the army in 2001 and was “deputed” to work with Jaish in 2005.

Farid and his fellow Pakistani comrades, held from a Jammu hotel on Sunday, were allegedly planning a Mariott-like suicide car bombing during the state elections, whose last phase is scheduled tomorrow in 21 Jammu and Srinagar constituencies.

In Islamabad, a military official said the arrested Farid could not be a serving Pakistani soldier since all such belt numbers are of eight digits in Pakistan whereas the Jammu and Kashmir police had cited a seven-digit number.

However, he made a stunning revelation: if a zero is added to the seven digits, the new belt number — 43191840 — would be that of a former Pakistan army sepoy, also called Ghulam Farid.

This Farid, the officer said, had deserted the army on June 6, 2006, from Okara in Pakistan’s Punjab province. So, he is certainly not a serving soldier, nor is his unit deployed along the Line of Control, the officer added.

Okara happens to be the home district of arrested Mumbai gunman Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, two of the other nine gunmen, as well as alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Toiba operations chief.

The Pakistani officer suggested that Indian authorities may have arrested Farid sometime ago and were now trying to “play this drama (in the light of the) current situation”.

Jammu and Kashmir police officers said the arrested Farid and his two comrades — Mohammad Abdullah and Mohammad Imran — had been trained by Mufti Abdul Rouf, brother of Jaish chief Masood Azhar, whom Delhi wants Islamabad to hand over. All the men were allegedly trained at the Mulir cantonment in Karachi by Jaish masters.

Police sources said Farid lived in Bhimber village in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir; Abdullah was from Harpur in North West Frontier Province and Imran from Dera Nawab Shah in Bahawalpur, Punjab province. “After reaching Jammu, they first stayed near Jammu railway station and then checked in at Hotel Samrat,” Khoda said.

He added that the police raided the hotel following specific intelligence and arrested the trio, who had checked in as Akhilesh Prasad, Inder Kumar and Gulshan Kumar.

The three men were waiting for a contact from Srinagar, who failed to reach Jammu because the highway had been closed by landslides at Panthal, Khoda said.

“The man from Srinagar was to hand over arms and ammunition to the suicide bombers and give them a target.”

One of the arrested men has revealed he had been trained to ram an explosive-laden vehicle into a target, the police chief said. Interrogation also revealed that four more militants had been sent from Pakistan to J&K, sources said.

The arrests came a day after the police said they had arrested an operative of the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami, a Kashtiwar resident named Suhail Faisal. He was allegedly involved in the Varanasi and Kanpur terror strikes.

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