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EU Analyses Designating Pakistani Militant Leader Masood Azhar a Terrorist

JeM is already a U.S.- and U.N.-designated terror group

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FILE - Indian activists carry placards of the leader of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad group, Masood Azhar, during a protest denouncing an attack on the Indian air force base in Pathankot, in Mumbai, India, Jan. 4, 2016. VOA

The European Union is reportedly contemplating designating the leader of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) a terrorist.

The EU’s decision comes nearly a week after a push by France and India to declare JeM leader Masood Azhar a terrorist and freeze his assets.

JeM is already a U.S.- and U.N.-designated terror group.

Focus on Kashmir

Azhar is an Islamist extremist who wants to end Indian control of a portion of the disputed Kashmir area and merge it with Pakistan. He was born in 1968 in Pakistan’s Punjab province in a Deobandi (Sunni sect) Muslim family.

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Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2000 and maintained his affiliation with several terror groups, including al-Qaida, Hurkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), all U.S.-designated terror groups. Wikimedia

He reportedly received his early education in Bahawalpur, Punjab, and later enrolled in Jamia-ul-Uloom, an Islamic seminary in Karachi, where he became a teacher.

Azhar founded Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2000 and maintained his affiliation with several terror groups, including al-Qaida, Hurkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Harkat-ul-Ansar (HuA), all U.S.-designated terror groups.

JeM is believed to be based in the Peshawar region of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

Azhar received his militant training in Afghanistan in the 1980s and fought Soviet troops there.

Spurred by jihad decree

Azhar reportedly traveled to Afghanistan in 1988 with his brother, Ibrahim Azhar, who according to analysts played a key role in shaping Masood’s religious ideology.

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FILE – Muslim cleric Masood Azhar arrives at Karachi airport, Jan. 22, 2000. VOA

“Azhar himself mentioned in one of the articles that his inclination towards jihad started when Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, head of the Karachi Jamia-ul-Uloom at that time, issued an Islamic decree for students to go and participate in Afghan jihad,” Mujahid Hussain, an author and expert on terror outfits, told VOA.

It was during his time in Afghanistan that Azhar developed a relationship with al-Qaida and its leadership, and later worked closely with the terror group.

Azhar traveled to several countries, including Britain, Saudi Arabia, Zambia, India and Bangladesh, to raise funds and recruit youth toward jihad.

He has written over 20 books on Islamic history and the importance of jihad.

Location a mystery

Azhar’s current whereabouts are unknown. Some experts in Pakistan believe he is living in Bahawalpur, a city in southern Punjab.

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Azhar traveled to several countries, including Britain, Saudi Arabia, Zambia, India and Bangladesh, to raise funds and recruit youth toward jihad. Wikimedia

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“I personally know many people who have met Azhar in Bahawalpur. Azhar reportedly goes to the mosques, gives sermons and greets people. And he continues to write for JeM’s magazine,” Hussain said.

On Feb. 5, when various religious parties throughout Pakistan marked Kashmir Day, an audio clip of Azhar was played during a JeM rally in Karachi. In the audio, Azhar invited people toward jihad.

“Stay determined,” he said. “And instead of going one by one, if you all go out there together as a group, India won’t be able to stand us for even one month. (VOA)

Next Story

US Institute of Peace Trains Kenyan Women to Help Fight Terrorist Radicalization Campaigns

The organization Sisters Without Borders was formed in 2014. One of its missions is to bridge the mistrust between Kenyan security agencies and families of terrorism suspects

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FILE - Kenyans walk past closed shops in the capital after an attack on a hotel complex, claimed by al-Shabab, in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 18, 2019. VOA

The U.S. Institute of Peace is training Kenyan women from 20 organizations to help fight terrorist radicalization campaigns. The program comes as Kenya struggles to halt the recruitment efforts of Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

The organization Sisters Without Borders was formed in 2014. One of its missions is to bridge the mistrust between Kenyan security agencies and families of terrorism suspects. The organization includes at least 20 women’s groups from Nairobi, Mombasa and Garissa, all of which have seen deadly terrorist attacks by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

Sureya Hirsi, a member of the sisters’ group from Mombasa, attended the conference in Nairobi. She says it is time for women to take an active role in the fight against terrorism.

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Kenya has been prime recruiting territory for al-Shabab since 2011, when the government sent troops into Somalia to fight militants. Pixabay

“The reason I joined this sisters group, it’s because I have been affected, I have family members, people whom I know, I know youths who have been recruited, and this is happening because as a community we don’t speak up about these issues. As a woman who is lucky and also educated, I have decided to be on the frontline to help my community so that we can speak about these issues that affect our community.”

Nicoletta Barbera, a program officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says women can play a key role in preventing young people from going down the terrorist path.

“The women that we work with, the sisters without borders are integrated within their communities, they live, work, and serve. They are very aware of the threats that are in their homes, in their markets, in their communities. We enable them to identify those potential individuals who are prone in engaging in violent extremism and give them the skills to try to mitigate them at the very beginning when they see those initial signs of radicalization,” Barbera said.

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The organization Sisters Without Borders was formed in 2014. One of its missions is to bridge the mistrust between Kenyan security agencies and families of terrorism suspects. Pixabay

Kenya National Counterterrorism Center Director Martin Kimani says that kind of ground-level activism is exactly what the country needs.

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“We in the security services are hunting and looking for recruiters to put them behind bars where they belong. But radicalization continues to be a problem.  That problem is going to need for the county level actions to get radicalization, to where, for example, Kenya got HIV/AIDS where everybody could speak about it, everybody knows what it is and everybody know their role in how to stop it and protect it each other from getting into that kind of life,” Kimani said.

Kenya has been prime recruiting territory for al-Shabab since 2011, when the government sent troops into Somalia to fight militants. Al-Shabab has been responsible for several major terrorist attacks, the worst coming in 2015, when al-Shabab fighters stormed Garissa University College, killing nearly 150 people. (VOA)