UN puts Pakistani armed group chief Masood Azhar on 'terror' list

Azhar's Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed responsibility for the February attack that killed 40 Indian soldiers in Kashmir.

    Indian protesters step on posters of Masood Azhar, head of the group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in February [Francis Mascarenhask/Reuters]
    Indian protesters step on posters of Masood Azhar, head of the group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in February [Francis Mascarenhask/Reuters]

    The United Nations added Masood Azhar, leader of a Pakistan-based armed group, to its list of "global terrorists" on Wednesday after China lifted its objections to the move.

    The UN sanctions committee on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and al-Qaeda announced in a press release the designation of Azhar - the chief of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) - over his ties to al-Qaeda.

    JeM claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and stoked tensions between India and Pakistan.

    China had blocked three previous attempts by the sanctions committee to blacklist Azhar and put a technical hold on a fourth request from Britain, France and the United States in March.

    Azhar founded JeM in 2000 after being released from an Indian prison in exchange for 155 hostages from a hijacked Indian Airlines plane. JeM itself has been on the UN's "terrorist" list since 2001.

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    Under the decision, Azhar, considered the founder of JeM, will be subject to an assets freeze, global ban and arms embargo.

    The sanctions committee accused Azhar of "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities" carried out by JeM.

    UN diplomats said the request was again submitted to the committee and China had not opposed the move to blacklist Azhar.

    'India in safe hands'

    The US had put forward a draft Security Council resolution to blacklist Azhar, ratcheting up pressure on China to remove its opposition to the sanctions.

    India applauded the move, which came after its air force carried out air attacks on a JeM camp inside Pakistan in February - the first time since 1971 it hit territory beyond divided Kashmir.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley posted on Twitter: "India stands vindicated. Masood Azhar is now a global terrorist. India is in safe hands. This marks a high point for the prime minister's foreign policy."

    Pakistan's foreign ministry was quick to respond, calling India's "occupation" of Kashmir "state-sponsored terrorism".

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    "Indian occupation forces continue to massacre Kashmiris, enjoying judicial immunity … through draconian laws," a ministry statement said. "We will continue to provide diplomatic, political and moral support to our Kashmiri brethren."

    About 500,000 Indian security forces are stationed in Kashmir, tasked with battling various armed groups. Tens of thousands of people have died in the decades-old conflict.

    Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since the February attack in Kashmir that prompted tit-for-tat air raids, raising fears of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

    Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies