UN adds Pakistani militant chief Masood Azhar to terror list

AFP , Wednesday 1 May 2019

The United Nations on Wednesday added Masood Azhar, the leader of a Pakistan-based Islamist group, to its list of global terrorists after China lifted its objections to the move.

The UN sanctions committee on the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda announced in a press release the designation of Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), over its ties to Al-Qaeda.

JeM has claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops and stoked tensions between India and Pakistan.

Under the decision, Azhar, considered the founder of JeM, will be subjected to an assets freeze, global travel ban and arms embargo. JeM itself has been on the UN terror list since 2001.

China had blocked three previous attempts at the sanctions committee to blacklist Azhar and put a technical hold on a fourth request from Britain, France and the United States in March.

UN diplomats said the request was again submitted to the committee last week and that China had not opposed the move to blacklist Azhar. Any decision to add individuals or groups to the UN terror list is taken by consensus in the committee.

Azhar is linked to terrorism for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities" carried out by JeM, according to the sanctions committee.

- India-Pakistan tensions -

India applauded the move which came after its air force in February carried out air strikes on a JeM militant camp inside Pakistan -- the first time since 1971 that it had hit territory beyond divided Kashmir.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley posted on Twitter: "India stands vindicated. Masood Azhar is now a global terrorist. India is in safe hands. This marks a high point for the Prime Minister's foreign policy."

Tensions between India and Pakistan have soared since the February attack in Kashmir that prompted tit-for-tat air raids, fueling fears of an all-out conflict between the two nuclear-armed countries.

Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full and have fought two wars over it.

The decision to blacklist Azhar came after Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of a summit of the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing.

France, which slapped unilateral sanctions on Azhar in March, also welcomed the decision and stressed it had pushed for many years for the JeM leader to be put on the list.

The United States in late March put forward a draft Security Council resolution to blacklist Azhar, ratcheting up pressure on China to remove its opposition to the sanctions.

Azhar founded JeM after he was released from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages held on an Indian Airlines flight that had been hijacked to Kandahar.

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