Rajat Sharma

Bagram prison: How release of terrorists by Taliban can cause troubles for India

rajat-sir In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed, for the first time ever on Indian television, visuals inside the Bagram prison near Kabul, that held several thousand terrorists during the last 20 years. The doors of the prison at Pul-e-Charkhi were opened after Taliban swept to power across Afghanistan by August 15.There were dreaded terrorists from ISIS(K), Al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-i-Taliban inside the prison.

Taliban fighters freed all these terrorists from the prison. They included 14 youths from Kerala who had wanted to join the Islamic State in Iraq, but were arrested by Afghan security forces. These youths were handed over to US army, who kept them captive inside Bagram prison. After the Taliban took over, all these 14 Keralite youths are now missing. There is no concrete information about terrorists who were freed from jail. There are reports that some of them have joined Taliban ranks, while some other terrorists were seen in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, ready to cross over to the Valley to cause mayhem.

India faces high risks after the release of these terrorists. Among those who escaped include ISIS(Khorasan) chief Moulvi Abdullah alias Aslam Farooqui, mastermind of the infamous terror attack on Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul in which 25 Sikh devotees were killed by a suicide bomber in March 2020. Aslam Farooqui was arrested on April 4, 2020, in Nangarhar province by Afghan security forces. Aslam Farooqui, who has close links with Haqqani network, has his base inside Pakistan and he has reportedly returned to his base after escape.

Among those released from Bagram prison include Tereek-e-Taliban chief Faqir Mohammed. He, along with other terrorists Waqas Mehsud, Hamza Mehsud, Zarkawi Mehsud, Zaitullah Mehsud, Qari Hamidullah, Hamid Mehsud and Mazhar Mehsud, are now free. There were also several Jaish terrorists in Bagram jail. They are now back in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Among them was terrorist Waqar, who was welcomed with gunfire, when he returned to POK, straight from Bagram air base.

Islamic State female terrorist Aafia Siddiqui is also free. She was help captive in Bagram prison. In several cases, Taliban fighters personally escorted many of these terrorists right up to the Pakistan border. There were reports of several dreaded terrorists kissing the hand of Taliban fighters, after release.

Pakistani and Turkish media reporters were allowed access into Bagram prison by Taliban commanders on Sunday. One Turkish reporter said, former Afghan jail warders had closed all the gates and doors of the jail, before leaving their posts on August 15. Several terrorists broke free and escaped, while the rest were released by Taliban.

Bagram air base set up by the US army is 25 km from Kabul, spread over thousands of acres. When reporters walked inside the jail for the first time with cameras, the visuals were astonishing. There was round-the-clock security to guard six to seven thousand inmates, mostly terrorists. The prison is now vacant. Only a few Taliban commanders are staying inside the complex.

The US army had divided the prison into two parts – one, was for common prisoners, while the other had isolation wards for dreaded terrorists. The Pul-e-Charkhi prison at Bagram base was commonly known as Afghanistan’s Guantanamo Bay. There was small cells for each dreaded terrorist and there were halls in which 30 terrorists were kept captive.

The prison had 84 watch towers manned by snipers of US army. On July 2, American troops quietly left the Bagram prison, when they dismantled their air base. They disconnected power supply and left, without informing the Afghan security forces for making alternative arrangements. Afghan forces guarded the prison for one month, and they too abandoned the jail, when Taliban fighters reached Bagram.

There was a large control room inside Bagram prison from where round-the-clock surveillance was being kept on prisoners through video cameras. On the roof of every cell and hall were iron nets, from which US troops guarded the prisoners round-the-clock. On August 15, when Taliban fighters occupied the Afghan presidential palace, Afghan troops abandoned the Bagram prison and locked all doors and gates. There were nearly 5,000 inmates inside the jail at that time. Several of them escaped, while the Taliban freed the rest.

It is pertinent to note here that after the 9/11 terror attacks on America, the US army and intelligence invested much of its time and men on nabbing Al Qaeda terrorists across the globe. Many were sent to Guantanamo Bay near Cuba, while the remaining were held captive in Bagram prison. With Al Qaeda terrorists now free, the question arises: Will there be a resurrection of Al Qaeda? Will the Islamic State revive? These questions beg answers.

For India, there are multiple risks. Dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists have been freed from Bagram base. Will they pose dangers for Indian security in Kashmir and the rest of India? The ISI and Pakistani security agencies are bound to use these terrorists against India. Already, US intelligence experts have predicted that China has its eyes on Bagram air base. If Taliban allows Chinese troops to enter Bagram, Pakistan is bound to use this air base which is hardly 460 km away from our Line of Control in Kashmir.

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