Encircled by men dressed in camouflage-colored clothes and
brandishing automatic rifles, Maulana Masood Azhar gave a fiery
speech to 10,000 supporters who gathered in front of a central
I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that
Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America
and India, Azhar said, vowing to liberate the embattled Kashmir
region from Indian rule.
The crowd responded by screaming, God is Great! and Death
to India, Death to the United States.
Azhars arrival in Karachi from neighboring Afghanistan, where
the eight-day hijacking ended Friday, was unannounced.
Though the Pakistani government earlier said that the hijackers
would be arrested if they stepped foot in their country, there was
no effort to detain Azhar or to bar him from speaking today.
I have come back and I will not rest in peace until Kashmir is
liberated, Azhar told the crowd, many of them members of his
militant group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen. The group is considered one
of the most radical groups fighting in Indian-ruled Kashmir.
Armed with grenades, pistols and knives, five hijackers seized
Flight 814 some 40 minutes after it took off from Katmandu, Nepal,
on a scheduled flight to New Delhi on Dec. 24. The hijacked plane
made stops in India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates before
landing in Afghanistan.
To secure the release of the 155 hostages, India agreed to
release Azhar, along with two other jailed Kashmiri militants.
Others Remain Hidden
The whereabouts of the other two Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, an
Indian Kashmiri, and Ahmed Umar Saeed Sheikh, a Pakistani-born
British citizen was not clear today.
Azhar, his head wrapped in a checkered scarf, said the five
hijackers were all Indian Kashmiris. He said they had returned to
Kashmir, the disputed territory divided between India and Pakistan.
They are preparing for their next assault, he said, without
When the speech ended several bodyguards, with Kalashnikov
automatic rifles, whisked Azhar into a truck and sped off.
Pakistan said after the hijacking that its border security was
put on alert and the hijackers would be arrested if found, a
difficult task given the length of the border and the multitude of
access points from Afghanistan.
The hijackers have not been seen since they left the airport in
southern Afghanistan. They were given 10 hours by Afghanistans
ruling Taliban to leave the country.
The three militants are Kashmiri activists opposed to Indian
rule in Kashmir, which has been the source of decades of conflict.
Both countries lay claim to the entire territory.
Azhar and Sheikh had been in Indian jails since 1994, although
neither had reportedly been formally charged. Azhar, a Pakistani
Islamic cleric and a radical ideologue was jailed for trying to
unite several of the Kashmiri rebel groups.
Pakistan previously said Azhar, whose father is a retired school
teacher from Punjab province, would be allowed to return to his
homeland because he did not face any charges at home.
Since the hijacking ended, India and Pakistan have exchanged
bitter accusations. India says Pakistan orchestrated the drama, a
charge vehemently denied by Pakistan.
Pakistans military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday said
India was launching a propaganda campaign against his country to
deflect criticism over how New Delhi handled negotiations with the
In Islamabad, Pakistani officials demanded that India make
public information it claims to have on the hijackers identities
and alleged Pakistani involvement.
Fabrication of allegations without a shred of evidence is
reprehensible, a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Indias home minister, L.K. Advani, said India has irrefutable
evidence of Pakistans involvement in cross-border terrorism and in
this particular hijacking. He did not offer details.