A Jaishe Mohammed (JeM) operative arrested in Dhaka has told Bangladeshi investigators that he arranged safe passage to India from Bangladesh for several militants who were involved in the 1999 hijack of an Indian Airlines plane.
Nannu Mia alias Belal Mandal alias Billal told the interrogators that he helped send 12-13 militants to India from Bangladesh. He knew one Abdur Rahman among them.
In December 1999, militants hijacked the Delhi-bound Indian Airlines plane (flight number 814) after it took off from Kathmandu. They forced the aircraft to land in Kandahar in the then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Indian authorities had to release four terrorists, including Jaish founder Moulana Masood Azhar, in return for safe release of all the passengers.
Billal, 35, was arrested on March 7, 2010 along with four other JeM militants, including Rezwan Ahmed, a Pakistani national who has been coordinating the Jaish activities here for the last five years. Billal has admitted his involvement in the 1999 plane hijack.
Although there are doubts in India about Billal’s involvement in the hijack drama, a team of sleuths from New Delhi is expected to come Dhaka to interrogate him, besides probing Pakistan-based JeM’s role in using the Bangladesh route to infiltrate India. A Bangladeshi national who served 10 years in jail in Guwahati in northeast India before returning home, Billal told investigators that he was introduced to Rezwan around seven to eight months back through another Pakistani national and suspected JeM militant Zawad.