New Delhi: Indian investigators waiting to travel to Pakistan have uncovered crucial information about how a group of terrorists crossed the border at the start of the New Year to attack one of the country's best-secured military areas, the air force base at Pathankot.
- Shahid Latif released in 2010 by Dr Manmohan Singh's government
- Latif provided support to Pak terrorists who attacked Pathankot
- 7 military personnel killed at Pathankot base in deadly January attack
Shahid Latif, 47, who was released from an Indian prison in 2010 by the previous government, allegedly provided logistical and other support for the four Pakistanis who went on to attack the Pathankot base. Seven military personnel were killed in a siege that lasted a grueling 72 hours. The four terrorists were shot and recently buried in Punjab after Pakistan refused to accept their bodies.
Latif, who is from Pakistan, was arrested in 1996 from Jammu in a case related to narcotics and terrorism. He is a senior leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose chief, Maulana Masood Azhar, masterminded the Pathankot attack, according to India.
To improve relations with Pakistan, Latif was deported by the Congress-led government six years ago, along with nearly 20 other terrorists who returned home through the Wagah border in Punjab. "All those released had served their full term in Indian jails and couldn't have been kept back," said a senior source in the National Investigation Agency or NIA, the country's top counter-terror body.
In 1999, when Indian Airlines plane IC814 was hijacked by five armed men to Kandahar in Afghanistan, Latif was among the men whose release was unsuccessfully demanded by the terrorists. Masood Azhar, who would go on to found the Jaish-e-Mohammed, was freed along with two others in exchange for the 189 passengers and crew who were caught in a hostage situation that lasted nearly a week.
After India accused the Jaish of January's Pathankot attack, a team of Pakistanis visited India to scrtunizie the evidence and question witnesses. Amid much criticism from the opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allowed them onto the Pathankot base. Pakistan, however, has yet to approve a visit by investigators of the National Investigation Agency or NIA, the top counter-terror agency.
NIA officers are keen to question top leaders of the Jaish, including the chief; however, Pakistani sources have told NDTV they cannot confirm whether Masood Azhar is still in the country.