Top militant commander Mehraj-ud-din Dand, wanted for his involvement in the 1999 hijacking of flight IC-814 to Kandahar and other terror attacks, has been arrested from an undisclosed location on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, a senior police official said Thursday.
In what is described as a major catch, Mehraj-ud-din, suspected to be involved in many militancy related incidents in India and abroad and amongst the oldest surviving militants, was arrested Wednesday night.
Mehraj-ud-din was nabbed after police got inputs that he was on his way back from Nepal and was on his way to Kashmir valley from the national highway connecting Jammu and Srinagar.
“We nabbed him at a location we cannot disclose at yet,” the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
It is believed that he was going to Kashmir as militancy was declining and needed to be revived. “His arrest is a severe blow to militancy and efforts to revive it,” a police official said.
Mehraj-ud-din, who belongs to the north Kashmir town of Sopore, joined militancy in 1990. “He participated in action and wielded gun up to 1995 after which he joined elite ranks, which involved planning, arranging logistics and handling militant activities,” the official said.
After 1995, he was mostly operating from Pakistan and Nepal. Police describe him as the most wanted and oldest militant, “involved in a number of militancy related activities both in India and outside”.
“Mehraj-ud-din was main person who arranged for all the logistics for carrying out the Kandahar hijacking. He facilitated the entry of five masked men into the aircraft with guns, knives and grenades and arranged finances for all this,” an official said.
Mehrajud-din was taking care of planning and finances. “He was like the top boss giving directions and arranging logistics.”
On Dec 24, 1999, IC-814, with 176 passengers on board, was hijacked by five Pakistani militants and forced to land in three different airports — Amritsar, Lahore, and Dubai – before being taken to Kandahar, the bastion of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In Dubai, Rupin Katyal, one of the passengers, was fatally stabbed by the hijackers.
The aircraft had to spend a week on the tarmac in Kandahar before terrorists were swapped for the hostages.