Masood Azhar: Jaish-e-Mohammed leader listed as terrorist by UN

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People protest carrying placards of Maulana Masood AzharImage source, AFP/Getty
Image caption,
Maulana Masood Azhar founded JeM in 1999

The UN has designated the leader of a militant group behind a deadly bomb attack that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war as a terrorist.

Masood Azhar is the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which carried out a suicide bombing in February killing 40 troops in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The UN move comes after China dropped its objection to the listing. India hailed it as a diplomatic victory.

Masood Azhar will be subject to an assets freeze and a travel ban.

"Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support," Syed Akbaruddin, India's ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted.

Pakistan said it would immediately enforce the sanctions, but also took aim at India.

"Pakistan maintains that terrorism is a menace to the world, including the Indian state-sponsored terrorism against innocent Kashmiris," foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said.

He added that it would be false to present the development as a "victory for India and validation of its stance".

The proposal had been brought forward by the US, Britain and France after the Kashmir attacks - the deadliest in the disputed region during a 30-year-long insurgency.

The attack worsened tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India, with war temporarily appearing a real possibility.

China - a long-time ally of Pakistan - had previously blocked the sanctions committee from imposing sanctions on Masood Azhar in 2016 and 2017 but agreed to the proposal on Wednesday.

What is JeM?

Jaish-e-Mohammad literally means the Army of Mohammad.

Masood Azhar founded the group after he was released by India in 1999, one of three men set free in exchange for the crew and passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked and flown to then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The suicide attack in Kashmir escalated tensions between India and Pakistan

Masood Azhar reportedly met the former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden when he was in the country.

India blames JeM for an attack on its parliament in Delhi in December 2001 - a claim JeM denies.

JeM was officially banned in Pakistan soon after that attack, but the group still operates, sometimes using the names Afzal Guru Squad, Al-Murabitoon and Tehreek-al-Furqan.

India has also blamed JeM for an attack on an airbase near the Pakistani border in January 2016, which left three members of the security forces dead.

JeM commander Noor Mohammad Tantray was killed by Indian forces in 2017, which was seen as a massive blow to the organisation.

But the violence did not abate, and many analysts believe the group still enjoys support from members of the Pakistani intelligence services.

JeM has however attacked Pakistani military targets and even made an attempt on then-leader Pervez Musharraf's life in 2003.