Thirteen years after the audacious Kandahar IC-814 hijack, a man suspected to have provided logistical support for it, Mehrajuddin Dand, has been arrested in Kishtwar, Jammu and Kashmir. The militant, the J&K Police say, is a major catch; he had been operating for the last 20 years.
There are very few details of the arrest available yet as the police double-check that the man they have arrested is indeed Dand. He goes by the alias Javed and is also alleged to have been involved in several blasts across the country. He had been living in Nepal for many years now, the police said, and had married a Hindu girl there.
The police claim that Dand provided fake travel documents to the five Pakistani men who hijacked the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 on December 24, 1999. The plane, with mostly Indians on board, had taken off from Nepal that Christmas Eve evening and just as it entered Indian airspace, the gunmen hijacked the flight to Kandahar in Afghanistan after fueling stops at Amritsar and Lahore in Pakistan and a stop at Dubai were they freed some passengers. The hijackers killed one man in the seven-day stand-off that ended controversially with the Indian government releasing three notorious terrorist leaders for the safe return of the rest of the passengers. Among those freed by India were Maulana Masood Azhar who later founded the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is accused of later killing American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The police say Dand is suspected to be a key man of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and an important fund raiser for terror activities. He is believed to have been among the first group of Hizbul Mujahideen that crossed over into Pakistan for training and is said to be the longest surviving militant in the state. Dand is also believed to have been a key lieutenant of Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin for many years before becoming an independent operative who coordinated between various terror groups, the police said.