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Intelligence agencies trying to ascertain reports of Masood Azhar’s death: Officials

(FILES) In this photograph taken on February 4, 2000, Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), arrives to address a press conference in Karachi. - For eight days in 1999 the world watched in horror as hijackers diverted an Indian Airlines flight to Afghanistan and held the passengers hostage, the drama ending only when Delhi agreed to release three Kashmiri militants. One of the militants freed was Masood Azhar, who later went on to found Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the militant group which claimed responsibility in February 2019 for the deadliest attack in three decades in Indian-held Kashmir. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

Intelligence agencies were trying to ascertain reports on social media about the death of Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group chief Masood Azhar in Pakistan, officials said on Sunday. The officials said they had no information other than that Azhar was undergoing treatment at an army hospital after suffering renal failure.

A resident of Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province, Azhar formed the Jaish-e-Mohammed in 2000.

The 50-year-old Azhar, who was released by the NDA government in 1999 in exchange of hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814, has been accused of being the mastermind of the 2001 Parliament attack, suicide attack on Jammu and Kashmir state assembly, attack on Pathankot IAF base and the latest Pulwama terror strike.

Social media was filled with reports that Azhar had died, but there was no confirmation as of now, the officials said. Jaish’s Balakot camp, where training was imparted to recruits to carry out suicide attacks, was targeted by the IAF in an air strike last week, following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

The government has claimed that it achieved a spectacular success by destroying the facility.

In an interview to CNN, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi earlier admitted that the JeM chief is in Pakistan and is “very unwell”, but said the government can act against him only if India presents “solid” and “inalienable” evidence that can stand in a court of law.

“He is in Pakistan, according to my information. He is unwell to the extent that he can’t leave his house, because he’s really unwell,” Qureshi said.

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