The visiting Pakistani JIT will begin recording the statements of the witnesses in the Pathankot terror attack case, including a Superintendent of Police rank officer of Punjab, from Thursday. Top officials of India’s anti-terror probe agency NIA, who held wide-ranging talks with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), meanwhile, have sought the voice samples of Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of terror group JeM said to have masterminded the assault, and his brother besides details of a trust run by the outfit.
Pakistani JIT headed by Additional Inspector General of Police, Counter Terrorism Department, Muhammad Tahir Rai, and also including ISI’s Lt Col Tanvir Ahmed, was handed over a list of 300 questions by the NIA during the day-long deliberations that took place at the latter’s headquarters.
“We have asked for voice samples of Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group chief Maulana Masood Azhar and his brother Abdul Rauf as also the voice sample of Khayyam Baber (mother of terrorist Nasir killed during the Pathankot attack),” NIA Chief Sharad Kumar said after the meeting. Nasir was said to have spoken to his mother during the attack.
The NIA sought access to Azhar and Rauf and told the visiting team that till the time India’s request was pending with authorities in Islamabad, it would like the Pakistani JIT to question them about their role in the attack on the Pathankot air base and hand over their statement to the Indian agency. The JIT arrived here this week for a probe into the Pathankot terror strike by Pakistan-based JeM.
The Pakistani team, which was taken to various spots in Pathankot yesterday, including the ‘crime scene’ inside the air base, has sought permission for recording the statements of witnesses including Punjab police officer Salvinder Singh, his friend, cook Madan Gopal, caretaker of a shrine the officer had visited in the run up to the attack, and officers who had carried out investigations earlier and prepared the seizure memo.
“We have lined up all the witnesses for tomorrow and the Pakistani JIT may record their statement for next two days,” he said.
The Paksitani team is scheduled to return on April two. On the intervening night of January 1-2, Jaish terrorists had struck at the strategic Indian Air Force base in Pathankot and in the ensuing gunbattle seven security personnel had been killed. Bodies of four terrorists were also recovered after the fierce encounter that lasted over 80 hours. The bodies of the perpetrators have been kept at a morgue in Pathankot. NIA has handed over to JIT statements of witnesses including doctors who conducted the postmortem, call records of Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh and his jeweller friend Rajesh Verma, whose phones had been snatched by the terrorists and allgedly used by them to speak to their contacts in Pakistan, serial number of weapons siezed, besides forensic and ballistic reports.
“We have identfied all the four terrorists and handed over the names to the Pakistani side. We now want them to confirm our investigations in the case,” he said.
He said the Pakistani side informed the NIA team that one of the Jaish handlers Kashif Jaan, who is believed to have accompanied the terrorists up to the border, was missing ever since his name surfaced in the case. The NIA was told that the Pakistani police was looking for him.
NIA also identified another Jaish terrorist Shahid Latif as one of the handlers of the terrorists and sought his thourough interrogation, Kumar said, adding information about ‘Al Rehmat Trust’ run by the terror outfit has also been sought.
Details of two websites, which carried a message of Abdul Rauf after the terror strike, were also shared with JIT, he said. Both the websites have gone off the Internet and India wants Pakistan to probe the details.
India also cited similarities between articles used by terrorists involved in Pathankot attack and those in Samba and Kathua last year like use of identical GPS and wireless sets and the modus operandi of hijacking cars before mounting the assault. The terrorists carried energy drink ‘Red bull’ (during all these attacks), had identical wire cutters and arms and ammunition of Eastern Europe, Russian and Chinese make which are available freely in the Af-Pak region.
NIA has also given details, including the batch numbers, of food packets carried by the Pathankot terrorists. The terrorists had carefully buried the packets which had Pakistani markings and manufacturing dates of November and December 2015, the sources said. JIT representatives said some suspects in the case have been detained in Pakistan and they have shared the details with NIA.