J&K ‘militant’ Wani was IB source in Nepal

FP

The arrest of Mehrajuddin Wani alias Mehrajuddin Dand in Kishtwar and subsequent police claims that he was a backroom planner in the IC-814 hijack have left central agencies red-faced because this pashmina dealer was an Indian intelligence 'asset' in Nepal for at least five years.

Mehrajuddin, sources said, was tapped by Indian intelligence agencies in 2000 after the Kandahar hijack to exploit his access as a Kashmiri in the shawls business in Nepal. He had developed some contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu and that made him a favourable candidate in the eyes of intelligence sleuths. He managed to get in touch with the ISI chief in Nepal, Arshad Cheema, who was among the IC-814 hijack masterminds.

Mehrajuddin is learnt to have passed on valuable intelligence on Cheema. The ISI official was eventually arrested and deported from Nepal for trying to organise the smuggling of RDX into India.

In intelligence circles, Mehrajuddin is quite a familiar figure. In fact, his inputs helped the Intelligence Bureau first figure out the Pakistani angle in the fake Indian currency racket based in Nepal. While officials are now tightlipped, insiders say Mehrajuddin's information did help in effecting many seizures. As it happens with intelligence agencies, his handlers kept changing, and that led to differences. He eventually stopped working for Indian intelligence agencies around 2005 and carried on with his business.

According to sources, he has been making these claims in his questioning by the J&K Police but could not get the Kishtwar officers convinced enough to dial New Delhi. Local police felt they had landed a catch, a person who knew Cheema and, therefore, must have played a role in the IC-814 hijack. Add to this was a coincidence that an absconding 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast accused is also named Javed. And by his own account, Mehrajuddin (also known as Javed) was in Delhi those days. He told the police that he was shown the door by his landlord soon after the blasts because he was a Kashmiri. This made his interrogators believe he was the same Javed.

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