More evidence suggesting that thousands of associates of the Tablighi Jamaat were functioning as bio-terrorists when they were wantonly meeting one another at one place and spreading across the country to spread coronavirus has surfaced. Tablighi Jamaat, a global organisation of Islamic missionaries, which may be the largest group carrier of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in India, has had longstanding links with Pakistan-based banned terrorist organisations such as Harkat ul Mujahideen. The founder of the terrorist group HuM, Maulana Masood Azhar, infamously associated with the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 in 1999, was a member of the Tablighi Jamaat, according to Pakistani security analysts and Indian observers, news agency IANS has reported.
As a splinter group of the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) in 1985, HuM participated in jihad (Islamic holy war) supported by Pakistan against the Soviet army to overthrow the USSR-coalition regime in Afghanistan. According to intelligence agencies, HuM trained more than 6,000 Tablighis in terrorist camps on Pakistani soil.
Following the Soviet Union’s ouster from Afghanistan, both HuM and HuJI terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir killed hundreds of civilians. The HuM terrorists eventually joined the Jaish-e-Mohammed founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, whom India had released in exchange for the IC 814 passengers.
But years before that hijack, immediately following the merger of Harkat ul Ansar-turned-HuM into HuJI, India had arrested three senior members: Nasrullah Mansur Langaryal, chief of the former Harkat-ul Mujahideen in November 1993; Maulana Masood Azhar, General Secretary in February 1994, and Sajjad Afghani (Sajjad Sajid) in the same month in Srinagar. Muzaffar Ahmad Baba was killed in an encounter at Pandan Nowhatta with the BSF in January 1994.
As a response, the group carried out several kidnappings in an attempt to free their leaders, all of which failed until they could free Masood Azhar in 1999.
According to WikiLeaks documents, some 9/11 al-Qaidah suspects that the US had detained in Guantanamo Bay stayed in the Tablighi Jamaat complex in Nizamuddin west of New Delhi several years ago.
Incidentally, the Tablighi Jamaat was also suspected to have been involved in the burning alive 59 Hindu karsevaks travelling by the Sabarmati Express in Godhra of Gujarat in 2002, leading to communal riots in the state, which claimed many lives.
India’s intelligence officer and security expert late B Raman had said in an article that the branches of Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan and Bangladesh, along with jihadi terrorist organisations like HuM, periodically attracted adverse attention.
HuM, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are members of the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998.
Referring to a report in Pakistani newspapers in the 1990s, Raman reported that trained cadres of jihadi terrorist organisations such as HuM obtained visas as propagators of the Tablighi Jamaat and recruited young Muslims for terrorist training in Pakistan.
As millions of Tablighi Jamaat advocates travel around the world propagating Islam, along the lines of the radical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology, the Jamaat developed extensively in the Chechnya and Dagestan regions of Russia, Somalia and some other African countries.
Raman wrote in his article that “intelligence agencies of all these countries suspected that terrorist organisations based in Pakistan were using the cover of preaching for creating sleeper cells in Muslim communities of different countries”. As a result, the Tablighi Jamaat was blacklisted and its campaigners were denied visas.
However, every year in India, thousands of Tablighi Jamaat members from many countries travel freely to several states and perform their preaching and conversion activities.