Pak detains JeM chief Masood Azhar, offices sealed

Security-Pathankot-Attack Security beefed up at Air Force base in Pathankot during the visit of PM Narendra Modi on Saturday who was there to take stock of the situation after the recent terror attack | PTI

Pakistan on Wednesday arrested Jaish-e- Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, his brother and "several individuals" belonging to his dreaded outfit, which is suspected to have engineered the Pathankot terror attack, and sealed its offices after India demanded action, linking it to the fate of Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Azhar's brother Abdul Rehman Rauf has also been arrested, Geo TV said.

While the arrest of several individuals was announced in a press release from the Prime Minister's Office, there was no official word on Azhar's detention.

Officials said Azhar, the dreaded terrorist and two other terrorists who were released from an Indian prison in 1999 in exchange for release of 155 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane, has been taken into protective custody after raids on several JeM offices.

Pakistan has also said it's considering sending a special investigation team to Pathankot as more information would be required to carry forward the process of cooperation with India.

The Pakistani action, which was reviewed at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, come as the fate of the FS-level talks scheduled for Friday hung in balance with just two days for Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to go to Islamabad for talks with his counterpart on resuming the bilateral dialogue process.

Terrorists belonging to the JeM are believed by India to be behind the Pathankot terror attack on January 2 in which seven security personnel were killed.

A PMO statement issued after the meeting said it noted with satisfaction that as part of Pakistans commitment to eliminate terrorism from its soil and the expressed national resolve not to allow the territory to be used for acts of terrorism anywhere.

It said "considerable progress has been made in the investigations being carried out against terrorist elements reportedly linked to the Pathankot incident.

"Based on initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad have been apprehended. The offices of the organisation are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are underway," the statement said.Pakistan said on Wednesday it had arrested several members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which is suspected of masterminding an attack this month on India's Pathankot air base.

News of the arrests comes 48 hours before a rare meeting of foreign secretaries of the nuclear-armed rivals is tentatively scheduled to take place.

Pakistan has promised it would get to the bottom of who was behind the assault on the air base after India handed over evidence to Pakistan that it said implicated Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad in the Jan. 2 attack, in which seven military personnel were killed.

India's Ministry of External Affairs was not immediately available for comment but said earlier it would decide late on Wednesday whether Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar would travel to Islamabad on Friday.

Pakistan's prime minister's office said in a statement the government had made "considerable progress" in investigating the attack, and it wanted to send a team of special investigators to the Pathankot air base in India.

"Based on the initial investigations in Pakistan, and the information provided, several individuals belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammad, have been apprehended," the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said.

"The offices of the organization are also being traced and sealed. Further investigations are underway," it said.

Jaish-e-Mohammad, or Army of Mohammad, is led by Islamic hardliner Maulana Masood Azhar and has long fought against Indian forces in India's part of the disputed region of Kashmir.

The banned group is blamed for an attack in 2001 on India's parliament that brought the rivals to the brink of war.

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