Tuesday, January 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fight to continue,vows Azhar

BAHAWALPUR (Pakistan), Jan 10 (Reuters) — A Pakistani Muslim cleric freed last month by India in return for hostages on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane has vowed to recruit half a million men to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

“We are going to organise a 500,000 Mujahideen (holy warrior) force to fight against the Indians,’’ Masood Azhar told thousands of people yesterday at an Id-ul-Fitr ceremony marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan. Azhar said the force would be recruited from all over Pakistan, but gave no details.

Last week, in an address to hundreds of people outside a mosque in a Karachi suburb, Azhar called for a jihad (holy war) in Kashmir.

Azhar was freed from an Indian jail along with two other militants on December 31 and traded for 155 hostages held captive on the Indian Airlines plane at Kandahar.

He also said that reports of his calling for aggression against the USA in a speech in Karachi last week were not true.

“I have not given any such statement which would be against the USA,’’ he said here, about 120 km south of Multan in Punjab province.

One of the other freed militants, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, a Kashmiri, has returned to occupied Kashmir.

The third, Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, who also holds a British passport, is thought to be in Pakistan but has not appeared in public.

The whereabouts of the five hijackers are also not known.

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