Journalist | Writer | Analyst
5 February 2004
The Times of India
IC-814 case was most successful: Al-Qaeda
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: “The hijacking of the Indian aircraft (IC-814) is one of the most famous, successful operations which the Mujahidin undertook to free some of the Mujahid prisoners,” notes a manual titled ‘Most Superior Fundamentals in the Art of Kidnapping Americans’, translated from pro-al Qaeda website Al-Palsam.
Sketching the details of the operation — which culminated in Jaswant Singh (who was external affairs minister at the time) flying out to Kandahar with three terrorists, including Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh, as co-passengers — the manual says: “Thank God, the shaykh (Masood Azhar) and some of his brethren were released, whereupon they arrived at Kandahar airport in an Indian airplane. With the departure from the territory of Afghanistan of the shaykh and his brothers, the phases of this successful, difficult operation were completed.”
Azhar and Omar Sheikh went on to found the Jaish-e-Mohammed, one of the deadliest of terrorist groups operating inside Kashmir and Pakistan.
The December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament and the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl were both the handiwork of the JeM.
The IC-814 hijackers, the manual says approvingly, “were clearly able to lend greater prominence to their cause. The whole world began to deal with the Kashmir issue anew and according to a new perspective”, while the Indian authorities “were afflicted with broken spiritedness, submissiveness and grovelling as they carried out the demands of the Mujahidin in front of the whole world”.
The manual identifies three factors as key to the hijackers’ success:
“Beforehand, the UAE (where the plane stopped for refuelling en route to Kandahar) had stated that the hijackers had been Sikh, and neither India nor any other state could learn of the identity of the kidnappers until after they announced their demands and their identity. And thus the secrecy through which the operation occurred had a great impact on the success which was on their side”.
The choice of target (an Indian plane leaving Kathmandu) and the “place of negotiations”, ie Kandahar under Taliban control.
“Yet, the greatest success in the matter was the speed of decision-making and resoluteness in the event, when the Indian forces delayed in supplying fuel.”
The last is a reference to the hijackers’ decision to stab 27-year-old passenger Rupin Katyal and take-off from Amritsar before the plane could be refuelled because they feared a rescue operation.
Though the manual’s language and specifics suggest it is intended for use mainly by Palestinians against Israel, the reference to the hijacking of IC-814 could possibly reflect a shift in Islamist attitudes towards India on the question of Kashmir.
It could, of course, also be the product of Israeli psychological operations aimed at getting New Delhi to make common cause with Tel Aviv on the Palestine issue.
Indian intelligence officials say the manual is proof of the interlinkages that exist across extremist groups worldwide.
“These groups have individual identities and localised agendas and causes, but there are linkages too”, an official told The Times of India. “Anyone who tries to go deep into these links, who tries to investigate the relationships, like Daniel Pearl tried to do, they stop”.
Intriguingly, the reference to IC-814 — and to kidnapping Americans in the title of the manual — also suggests the involvement of Omar Sheikh in its authorship.
The document is merely signed ‘Hekmatyar’, an obvious pseudonym. Before he became notorious for the Pearl killing, Omar Sheikh had been imprisoned in India on the charge of kidnapping Americans.