Islamabad extends its hand to Delhi: 44 militants arrested

The arrested include the brother and son of Masood Azhar, head of the Islamic group that carried out the attack in Kashmir on 14 February. The Pakistani authorities freeze the accounts of some terrorists. Satellite photos reveal that the terrorist training base in Pakistan is intact.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 44 alleged militants have been arrested by Islamabad authorities in the last crackdown against Islamic terrorism. The arrests represent the attempt by the Pakistani government to ease the tension with India, rekindled in recent weeks following the bombing of February 14 in Pulwama, Kashmir, during which over 40 Indian soldiers were killed.

Pakistani Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi reports that among the inmates there are also two close relatives of Masood Azhar, the leader of the fundamentalist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), who claimed the massacre in Kashmir. This would be mufti Abdul Rauf and Hammad Azhar, respectively brother and son of Masood. Both men appear on the list of suspects of the attack that Delhi delivered to Pakistani last week.

Although the JeM group has been banned by the Islamabad authorities, its militants continue to hold sway over portions of territory that are difficult to control by state forces, especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and tribal areas.

It is in the aforementioned Pakistani province, in the locality of Balakot, that on 26 February the Indian air force raided to destroy a training camp of the JeM militants. After the air raids, the Delhi Defense Secretary claimed the killing of at least 350 militants.

In retaliation, the Islamabad Air Force shot down two Indian fighter jets who had illegally entered their airspace, taking one of the pilots as prisoners. As a "gesture of peace", the government in Islamabad returned Lieutenant Colonel Abhinandan Varthaman, who was given a hero’s welcome to India.

The arrests of alleged Islamic militants could help defuse clashes even further. Among other things, the satellite images released this week by Reuters reveal that the madrassa (Koranic school) hit by the bombs at Balakot is intact. By comparing the photos before and after the raids, the structure does not show any obvious damage.

Finally, the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered to freeze and block the accounts of individuals and Islamic associations linked to Pakistan and included in the list of terrorists drawn up by the United Nations at the global level.