One of the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight, Zahoor Mistry, was killed in Pakistan earlier this month. Who is he and how was he killed? What happened during the 1999 hijacking of IC 814?
One of the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC 814, Zahoor Mistry, has been killed in Pakistan, according to media reports in that country. Mistry is reported to have been killed on March 1 by two bike-borne assailants in Karachi’s Akhtar colony. The killing was confirmed by Pakistan’s Geo TV, reporting it as the death of a “businessman” in Karachi.
Reports also quoted Pakistan intelligence sources as saying that top leaders of terror organization Jaish-e-Mohammed, led by Masood Azhar, attended Mistry’s funeral. Masood Azhar was among the three terrorists released by the Indian government when IC 814 was hijacked in 1999.
Who is Zahoor Mistry?
Mistry was an operative of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), an anti-India terror group operating out of Pakistan and Bangladesh then. He was among the five hijackers of IC 814, which was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan on December 24, 1999. The hijackers included Azhar’s brothers Rauf Asghar and Ibrahim Azhar. Both continue to live in Pakistan.
It was Mistry who was responsible for the only death in the entire episode, that of 25-year-old Rupin Katyal. In order to put pressure on the Indian government to agree to their terms, the terrorists had decided to kill one of the passengers. Mistry had stabbed Katyal in the chest inside the flight, killing him. Katyal and his wife were returning from their honeymoon in Kathmandu.
Mistry is said to have been living in Karachi under an assumed name, Zahid Akhund, and running a furniture business in the coastal city by the name of Crescent Furniture.
How was he killed?
According to Pakistan media reports, Mistry was killed by two bike-borne assailants in Karachi’s Akhtar colony, where he ran his business. Pakistan’s Geo TV has put out a footage of the assailants roaming around on the bike in the area around the time of the murder. The local police is said to have recovered five empty bullet shells from the spot of the murder.
While the murder was reported as that of a “businessman” in Karachi, the media claimed that his funeral was attended by leaders of JeM, including Rauf Asghar. In fact, the media appeared to have got a wind of the killing only after the funeral.
It is not yet known why Mistry was killed and who is behind the murder.
The 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines IC 814
On December 24, 1999, Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was hijacked by Mistry and his associates after it took off from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, enroute to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.
The flight, with 180 passengers including the crew, was hijacked while it was flying over Lucknow, and taken to Lahore. However, Pakistan authorities did not allow the plane to land. As it was already running low on fuel, the plane was diverted to Amritsar, where it stopped for refuelling. Many claim that the Indian establishment failed to act in time to stop the flight from leaving India.
From Amritsar, the flight was again taken to Lahore, where Pakistan authorities first tried to prevent landing, but eventually allowed it. It was then taken to Dubai, where 27 passengers were released. The body of Katyal was also offloaded here. From there, the flight eventually reached Kandahar in Afghanistan, where the-then Taliban government joined the negotiations for the release of passengers.
The episode ended with India agreeing to release Masood Azhar along with Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, all then affiliated with terror group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Present-day NSA Ajit Doval, who was then the Intelligence Bureau chief, oversaw the handover and release of passengers.
What has been the aftermath?
After being released, the three terrorists were given a safe passage by the Taliban to Pakistan. Under the protection of Pakistan spy agency the ISI, Azhar then laid the foundation of one of the most dreaded and effective terror organizations, the Jaish-e-Mohammed.
The outfit has since been responsible for multiple terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India, killing hundreds. These include the 2016 attack on Pathankot Air Base and the 2019 Pulwama attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF soldiers.
Courtesy: Indian Express