The chief handler of the Jaish-e-Mohammed fidayeen group which attacked the Pathankot airbase in 2016, Shahid Latif, was among 25 Islamist terrorists released by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government in 2010 as part of a ‘goodwill gesture’ towards Pakistan, as per a TOI report.
The group of 25 jihadists included dreaded terrorists from Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and JeM; they were set free from various jails across Srinagar, Agra Varanasi, Naini (Uttar Pradesh) and Tihar and were deported via the Wagah-Attari border crossing on 28 May 2010.
Latif went on to play an instrumental role on the terror strike in Pathankot in 2016, and has now emerged as the primary handler who launches JeM terrorists into India.
He was also part of JeM’s ‘wish list’ of 32 terrorists whose release the outfit had sought from the Vajpayee government following the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999. The then NDA government had negotiated the release of 154 passengers for Masood Azhar and two other prisoners.
Latif resides in the town of Aminabad in Gujranwala district of Punjab, Pakistan. Intelligence agencies see him as enjoying a position close to the JeM supremo Masood Azhar.
It is believed that the four fidayeen involved in the Pathankot airbase attack were provided weapons, clothes, medicines and other logistical support by Latif.
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