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Jaish-e-Mohammad splits into warring factions

Preetam Bora (Expressindia.com)

Posted: Jul 05, 2003 at 1740 hrs IST

Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has reportedly split into two factions, one headed by its chief Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani weekly newspaper has reported.

The Friday Times has reported that Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was renamed as Khuddam-ul-Islam (KI), has split into two factions, following the expulsion of its Karachi chief, Abdullah Shah Mazhar by Masood Azhar.

According to the report, Mazhar and his colleagues have not only formed their own faction of KI, but are also feuding with the parent group headed by Masood Azhar.

As many as 12 leaders of the terrorist group were expelled by Azhar, among them Abdullah Mazhar and Abdul Jabbar. Jabbar has nicknamed himself Maulana Umer Farooq and is the chief of the breakaway faction and Mazhar has been nominated as the chief organiser and secretary general of the splinter group.

“The conflict between the two groups surfaced when the Mazhar faction did not allow Masood Azhar to address a sermon at Masjid-e-Bataha in Karachi’s Sakhi Hasan locality in North Nazimabad,” the newspaper reported.

“Another scuffle between the two factions was reported at a mosque in the Korangi area. This time the Azhar group succeeded in capturing the mosque.”

According to the report, Abdullah Shah Mazhar has said that differences within the group arose because of Maulana Masood Azhar’s deviation from the organisation’s jihadi activities. However, one of the chief patrons and founders of the organisation, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, in a written statement to the Friday Times said that Masood Azhar is still the undisputed leader of the extemist group and that its patrons have “advised Abdul Jabbar (Umer Farooq) and other colleagues to shun their differences and work for the just cause but it did not happen..”

The Friday Times quoted sources in the Pakistan government as saying that action would soon be initiated against the Mazhar group.

Maulana Masood Azhar was released from an Indian jail in exchange for the lives of hostages of a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft in January 2000. Though Pakistan had condemned the hijacking at that time and promised to bring the perpetrators to book, Azhar surfaced in Karachi barely a month after his release in Kandahar and addressed public rallies propagating jihad. He then annpuncd the formation of the Jaish-e-Mohammad in February 2000.

He renamed it Tehrik-ul Furqan fearing a possible inclusion in the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) in December 2001 after suspected Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament.

Fearing another ban and US pressure on Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf to crack down on terrorist groups, the group renamed itself Khuddam-ul-Islam.

Pakistan’s military government has shied away from taking any concrete steps against its armed Islamist groups, which include the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami and Harkat-ul Mujahideen. Following the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, Gen Musharraf had announced a crackdown against extremist groups on national television, but the results have been far from satisfactory.

Hundreds of arrested terrorists were released later with mere warnings and even jihadi leaders who were detained or put under “house arrest” were released. One of those detained Islamist leaders, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam later contested the October 2002 elections and was elected a Member of the National Assembly. Today, he is a leader of the Opposition in Pakistan's Parliament.

New Delhi has often held Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. The Pakistan government has however, yet to take any concrete action against the Islamist armies, which have close ties with its intelligence agency, the ISI.

If Pakistani authorities do initiate any action against the JeM it would have to include Masood Azhar’s group as well. Any action against only the Mazhar faction would be seen only as an effort at quelling the factionalism within the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

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