DECODING TARGETED ELIMINATIONS: HOW INDIA’S SWORN ENEMIES ARE MEETING THEIR FATE ON FOREIGN SOIL
Islamabad: In the complex realm of international relations and counter-terrorism, a series of targeted eliminations has unfolded in the recent past, shedding light on the precarious existence of individuals deemed enemies of India. On Thursday, November 9, in the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, former Head of recruitment for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Akram Ghazi was shot dead at the hands of unidentified assailants, marking the latest killing of a terrorist who had India as his main target.
Known by the alias Ghazi, Akram Khan was a prominent figure within Lashkar-e-Taiba, serving as one of its top recruiters from 2018 to 2020. His role reportedly extended to radicalizing numerous individuals who subsequently infiltrated the Kashmir Valley in multiple waves over the past two years.
The circumstances surrounding Ghazi’s killing have reportedly prompted Pakistani agencies to initiate a thorough investigation. Two primary lines of inquiry include examining the potential involvement of local rivals, which may span across different terrorist groups, and delving into internal conflicts within Lashkar-e-Taiba’s ranks. These preliminary leads suggest a complex backdrop to Ghazi’s killing.
Ghazi’s killing comes just four days after Khwaja Shahid, identified as one of the key orchestrators behind the 2018 Sunjwan terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, was forcefully taken and subsequently discovered beheaded near the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
This has brought the focus back on – How India’s foes are meeting their fate on foreign soil – as a complex tapestry of terrorism, geopolitics, and internal strife emerges.
This narrative begins with a suicide bombing near the residence of Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba, in Lahore, Pakistan. While Saeed narrowly escaped the attack, it set off a chain of events, including accusations against India and subsequent arrests.
This article delves into the fascinating and often mysterious stories of key figures, including Hafiz Saeed, and how their lives intersect with geopolitics and the pursuit of justice.
Terrorist Hafiz Saeed And The Lahore Bombing:
On June 23, 2021, a suicide bomber targeted a police checkpoint near Hafiz Saeed’s residence, leaving four dead in Lahore. Pakistan swiftly pointed fingers at India, alleging their involvement and citing evidence of funding. This incident added tension to the already strained relations between the two nations. Despite accusations, Saeed, the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, managed to escape unscathed. However, the aftermath of the bombing unfolded a series of events, including the arrest of Saeed in 2019 on terrorism financing charges, leading to a 31-year prison term. But, the LeT terror chief has not been tried for the 2008 Mumbai carnage.
Abdul Salam Bhuttavi’s ‘Cardiac Arrest’
While Saeed narrowly avoided danger, others of his kind were not as fortunate. Notably, Saeed’s deputy and Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Abdul Salam Bhuttavi, responsible for indoctrinating terrorists for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks attacks, was found dead within a prison cell in Pakistan this May, with authorities attributing his death to cardiac arrest.
Mistry Zahoor Ibrahim: The Fate of an IC-814 Hijacker
On March 1, 2022, Mistry Zahoor Ibrahim, one of the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, met his end in Karachi, Pakistan, as two unidentified attackers shot him inside a furniture store in Akbar Colony, according to reports. Operating under the alias Zahid Akhund, Ibrahim was the owner of Crescent Furniture. CCTV footage revealed that the assailants, wearing face masks and helmets to conceal their identities, had conducted reconnaissance in the area prior to the attack.
Ibrahim, along with four others, orchestrated the hijacking of IC-814 on December 24, 1999, while en route from Kathmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi. During the hijacking, Ibrahim stabbed Indian passenger Rupin Katyal. Yusuf Azhar, also known as Mohammad Salim, a top leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the mastermind behind the IC-814 hijack, was killed in an Indian Air Force airstrike at the Balakot camp of the outfit in February 2019. Azhar’s connections to various attacks, including those in Pathankot, Uri, and Pulwama, were highlighted by Indian officials. The series of killings has left Pakistan’s law enforcement authorities and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) uneasy. Despite their investigation pointing to the involvement of local criminals familiar with the victims’ localities, they have been quick to blame India’s external intelligence agency, alleging without evidence, while overlooking signs of potential inter-gang rivalry behind the incidents.
Paramjit Singh Panjwar: The End of a Khalistani Operative
In May, 2023, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, a wanted Khalistani terrorist, was killed when two unidentified gunmen shot him dead in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Panjwar, aged 63, led the banned Khalistan Commando Force-Panjwar group and had been involved in illicit activities such as drug and weapons smuggling. India designated him as a terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in July 2020.
The fatal incident occurred as Panjwar, accompanied by his guard, was walking in the park of his residence in Sunflower Housing Society, Nawab Town, Lahore. Two assailants opened fire on him and swiftly fled the scene on a motorcycle. Despite being rushed to the hospital, Panjwar was pronounced dead on arrival by doctors. Originally from Tarn Taran district in India’s Punjab, Panjwar joined the Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) in 1986 and later assumed leadership. Crossing over to Pakistan, the KCF was subsequently listed as a terrorist organization under the UAPA. Despite his recent inactivity, Panjwar had been operating from Lahore, orchestrating arms training for Pakistani youths. He played a role in supplying arms, ammunition, and facilitating infiltration into India with the aim of targeting key individuals and economic installations. Additionally, Panjwar was involved in broadcasting highly seditious and separatist programs on Radio Pakistan, fuelling discord among minorities against the Indian government.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar: A Target On Canadian Soil
The narrative extends beyond Pakistan, reaching the western Canadian province of British Columbia, where
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, aged 45 and the leader of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was killed when two unidentified gunmen fatally shot him outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a city in the western Canadian province of British Columbia. The incident took place in mid-June this year in the bustling car park of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, located approximately 30km east of Vancouver.
Nijjar, a prominent figure in the Sikh community of British Columbia, was a fervent advocate for Khalistan, championing the cause of establishing an independent Sikh homeland in the Punjab region of India. His unwavering activism had previously subjected him to threats, as acknowledged by his supporters. Designated a “terrorist” by India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in July 2020, Nijjar had his properties seized by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in September 2020. Additionally, a 2016 Interpol “Red Corner” Notice was issued against him. Despite being temporarily placed under house arrest by Surrey’s local police in 2018 due to suspicions of terror involvement, Nijjar was subsequently released.
The aftermath of Nijjar’s assassination fueled a diplomatic dispute between Canada and India. In June, Canada accused India of involvement, leading to vehement denials by India, labeling the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated.” This incident heightened existing tensions, compounded by Canada’s prior criticism of anti-India protests and displays in the country.
Riyaz Ahmad: Targeting LeT In Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir
On September 9 this year, a high-ranking commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) met his fate at the hands of unidentified gunmen inside the Al-Qudus mosque in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’s (POK) Rawalkot. The slain terrorist, identified as Riyaz Ahmad, alias Abu Qasim Kashmiri, was shot at point-blank range during Friday prayers. Ahmad was a significant figure, having played a key role as one of the main conspirators behind the Rajouri terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir earlier in the same year. The attack on Dhangri village in Rajouri district resulted in the tragic deaths of at least seven individuals, with a dozen others sustaining injuries. The assailants not only fired indiscriminately but also left behind an improvised explosive device (IED) that detonated the following morning.
Reports suggested that suspicions point toward home-grown terrorists of Pakistan as the orchestrators of Ahmad’s murder. This incident adds to a trend, with approximately 10 similar killings, many occurring within Pakistan, reported over the past year.
Maulana Ziaur Rahman: Unveiling Terrorist Ties In Karachi
The reported killing of Maulana Ziaur Rahman, a cleric, occurred on September 12 when two unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot him dead during his routine evening stroll in Karachi’s Gulistan-e-Jauhar. The crime scene revealed the presence of 11 cartridges, some of which were identified as 9mm caliber. Reports suggested that despite serving as a Lashkar operative, Rahman maintained a dual role as an administrator of the seminary named Jamia Abu Bakar, which allegedly operated as a front for his terrorist activities.
The Pakistan police, in their press release, classified Rahman’s murder as a “terrorist attack,” emphasizing the involvement of homegrown “militants.” Authorities are actively investigating the possibility of gang rivalry as a motive for the assassination. This incident follows a series of attacks on religious preachers in Karachi, all of whom had affiliations with terror groups. These preachers were allegedly instrumental in radicalizing youths and preparing them for activities that pose security threats to India.
Shahid Latif: A Blow To JeM’s Presence:
On October 11, 2023, Shahid Latif, a most-wanted terrorist and a key aide of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, was gunned down along with his brother in a targeted attack within a mosque in Pakistan’s Sialkot district. Latif, aged 53, played a central role in orchestrating the 2016 attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, resulting in the tragic death of seven IAF personnel and sparking a three-day siege that heightened tensions between India and Pakistan.
The assailants, arriving on a motorcycle, indiscriminately fired upon Latif and his brother, Haris Hashim, as they exited the Noor Madina mosque in Daska town after pre-dawn prayers. Although no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, the local police chief, Hassan Iqbal, indicated that Latif was deliberately targeted. Known by aliases such as Bilal or Noor Al Din, Latif played a pivotal role within JeM, contributing to the planning, facilitation, and execution of terror attacks in India. Latif’s journey began in 1993 when he entered Kashmir from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as a member of the banned Hakar
Ansar terror group. After being arrested and spending 16 years in the Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu, he was deported through the Attari-Wagah border in 2010. It is believed that he reconnected with Azhar, the founder of JeM, during this period, marking a significant development in the evolution of the terror group. Latif’s killing is considered a substantial blow to JeM’s presence on Pakistani soil, yet the full extent of its impact on the group’s activities and leadership remains to be seen.
As we navigate through these tales of targeted eliminations, a complex tapestry of terrorism, geopolitics, and internal strife emerges. The lives of individuals marked as enemies of India intertwine with global events, leaving behind a trail of violence and unanswered questions. Whether it’s the dramatic escape of Hafiz Saeed, the targeted killings on foreign soil, or the blame games between nations, the narratives underscore the intricate challenges in combating terrorism and seeking justice on the international stage.