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'Ghazi Baba was a ruthless operator'

Sheela Bhatt in Mumbai | August 30, 2003 22:25 IST

A senior Intelligence Bureau official described the killing of Ghazi Baba as a 'slap on the face of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and a psychological blow to the Jaish-e-Mohammed'.


The officer, based in Srinagar, told rediff.com that the Jaish-e-Mohammed's J&K commander-in-chief's presence in Srinagar was known to the IB.

He said Baba's name figured prominently in the reports on the threat perception to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was visiting Kashmir this week.

Ghazi Baba was a well built, sturdy and a healthy man in his mid-30s.

An intelligence officer said Ghazi Baba was one of the most dreaded terrorists operating in J&K. "He gave us a real fight before dying at the hands of the Border Security Force. We are surprised that his body was intact because he always carried explosives on his body," he said.

Giving a profile of Ghazi Baba, the officer said, "His real name was Shahbaz Khan. He belonged to Bahawalpur in the Punjab province of Pakistan. He was not well educated but understood English and always spoke Urdu. He was a ruthless operator. He would kill anyone without thinking twice if he suspected that person was close to Indian security officers. One of the Indian security forces' most reliable informers was brutally killed by him six months ago.


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"His cadres admired him because he had a commendable talent for planning. His most prominent plans were the attack on Indian Parliament and the fidayeen attack on the Kashmir assembly. He always thought big and used to say 'If you want to hit, hit hardest!'"


It is not known how an ordinary person like him turned to guns but he was committed to the jihadi doctrine and was a devout Deobandi sect follower. Like all jihadis fighting in Jammu and Kashmir, he believed that if he died fighting against India, he would get martyrdom.


The officer said Baba was known for his daring nature and bold approach in taking on the security forces, but in his personal life, he was insecure and distrustful, like most criminals. Though a fundamentalist Muslim, he believed in astrology and was wearing three stone rings of different colours.


He was considered a serious threat to Indian security officers in Kashmir and headed an 'army' of some 300 jihadis within the valley. He was made the Jaish-e-Mohammad's commander-in-chief in Jammu and Kashmir and coordinator of terrorist activities in the valley after he impressed Maulana Masood Azhar, who was freed in December 1999 in exchange for the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft.

Then Ghazi Baba was the deputy commander of Harkat-ul-Ansar, which was one of the first terrorist outfits to be banned by the United States. After he executed the attack on Indian Parliament, he tried to hide his identity by shaving his long beard.

The furor after the Parliament attack did not worry him and he chose to stay on in India rather than move back to Pakistan. For most of the times, he lived in Srinagar and had recently planned an attack on the All India Radio office in Srinagar.

The Indian security officers were aware that Ghazi Baba would be difficult to capture because he was well armed and surrounded by bodyguards. When his body was found, the BSF found on his person 20 RDX bombs, 22 detonators, four rockets and a satellite telephone.

Ironically, the man who claimed that he was fighting for Kashmir's secession from India did not trust Kashmiris. His four personal bodyguards were all foreigners.

But he married a Kashmiri and had children. His wife Franky was from Safapora village in Bandipura district. Ghazi was paranoid about food he ate. He always cooked his own food and was known to love Indian-Punjabi food such as chicken tikka and chapattis. He used a lot of butter and ghee in his cooking.

A few months ago, the security officers arrested a Pakistani in Kashmir. This Pakistani led the forces to a man who had made many hideouts for Ghazi Baba. When this man was arrested, he took the security forces to the hideouts and the forces thus found Ghazi Baba.

The BSF was not expecting to kill Ghazi Baba and are overjoyed by their success. In fact, Ghazi Baba called himself 'Ghazi the victor' after he had killed many BSF soldiers.

While the intelligence agencies are no doubt pleased at the success, they point out that it does not change the situation in Jammu and Kashmir much.  An officer said that sooner or later, another Ghazi Baba would rise, who could be even worse. The war against terrorism has not ceased. 

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