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JeM chief Azhar killed in Balakot strike?

Speculation rife about Masood succumbing to airstrike injuries; terror outfit denies report

Suspense mounted over death of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar even as the terror outfit has denied the reports and said he is alright. Indian intelligence agencies were trying to ascertain the veracity of the claims and counter-claims. Unconfirmed reports have emerged in the Indian media and social media that the JeM chief Azhar is dead. The reports claimed that Azhar was seriously injured during the air strike carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Balakot and succumbed to injuries. But Pakistani officials categorically denied reports of his being injured in the air strike. According to the inputs with the Agencies here, Azhar is facing renal problems and he had undergone a kidney transplant six months ago at the base hospital of Pakistan army at Bahawalpur. The kidney transplant on Azhar was successful and he continues to undergo medical check-ups at the army hospital there, sources said. Following a flood of messages on the social media regarding claims of death of Azhar, the terror group issued statement, saying, “Respectful Azhar by the grace of Allah, is safe, sound and alright.” The Gulf News quoted a top Pakistani official who has also denied rumours about the death of Azhar. “All I can say is that reports in the media about Azhar’s death are not true,” a Pakistani official told The Gulf News. The Pakistani official quoted by The Gulf News said Azhar is not dead as rumours are being spread on the social media. 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 & Kashmir State Assembly, attack on Pathankot IAF base and the latest Pulwama terror strike. 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 had claimed. The media reports claiming that JeM leader is dead are false, Geo Urdu News reported. Quoting unnamed sources close to the family of the JeM chief, the channel said Azhar is “alive”. Jaish terror group’s Balakot camp, where training was imparted to recruits to carry out suicide attacks, was targeted by the IAF in an airstrike last week, following the Pulwama suicide bombing in which 44 CRPF personnel were martyred. The Government has said that a large number of Jaish terrorists were killed in the air raid at Balakot. Monday, 04 March 2019 | PNS | New Delhi

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