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‘Knew Masood Azhar before hijacking of Indian Airlines IC 814, got an undertaking from his group for safety of passengers’: ‘Bikini killer’ Charles Sobhraj

In his exclusive interview with Indian Express, Sobhraj said he knew terrorist Masood Azhar and had negotiated with his then terror group Harkat ul Ansar for the 'safety' of passengers on Indian Airlines IC 814.

On Friday, the French serial killer, widely known as ‘bikini killer’, Charles Sobhraj was released from the Kathmandu jail after the apex court there ordered his discharge on the grounds of his age. Sobhraj is 78 and is expected to fly to France to see his family. In his exclusive interview with Indian Express, Sobhraj said he knew terrorist Masood Azhar and had negotiated with his then terror group Harkat ul Ansar for the ‘safety’ of passengers.

Sobhraj was imprisoned in Nepal since 2003 after he was arrested on allegations of murdering American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and has spent 19 years of a 20-year sentence. According to the reports he was also jailed by the Indian authorities and was sent to Delhi’s Tihar jail for poisoning a group of French tourists in 1976. He was in jail till 1997 after which he returned to his home in France.

However, in his interview with the Indian Express, Sobhraj mentions that he met Masood Azhar in Tihar and indicated that he was the one who ‘helped’ the Indian government at the time of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijack. He claimed to have secured the undertaking from Masood’s party that the hostages won’t be harmed.

The plane was hijacked in the year 1999, two years after Sobhraj was released. The terrorist group Harkat ul Ansar wanted Azhar out of jail in exchange for the safety of passengers on board. Sobhraj said that then Foreign Minister of India, Jaswant Singh, contacted him in Paris and asked him to talk to Azhar.

“Jaswant Singh was in direct contact with me. At first, he sent an envoy to meet me in Paris. Following that meeting, and my direct talk with Jaswant Singh, I contacted people in the Harkat ul Ansar, Masood’s party then. They, of course, refused to release the passengers but I succeeded in getting an undertaking from them that for 11 days, they would not harm the passengers, but after that, they would start executing,” he said in the interview.

He mentioned that India only had 11 days to negotiate and that the officers had no choice but to release Azhar. “Really, as the plane was in Kandahar, the Indian government had no choice but to release Masood to save the passengers,” he said.

According to him, in 1994, a Pakistani outfit in Kashmir, Al Faran had abducted and murdered six foreign persons after their demand to release Masood Azhar was not fulfilled. “A couple of months later, Al Faran went silent and until today, the whereabouts of those remaining foreign hostages remains unknown,” he added.

He further stated that on Singh’s repeated overtures for him to speak to Azhar, he proposed to convince Harkat ul Ansar that the Government of India would provide an official undertaking, endorsed by Parliament, for the release of Masood Azhar within six months. “Jaswant Singh told me he will discuss it with the Cabinet. But finally, they chose the option to release Masood. You can ask for confirmation from Jaswant Singh,” he asserted in the interview which was taken in 2016, but released today, after his release.

In the interview, Sobhraj also says that after the incident, he met terrorist Masood Azhar several times between 2000 and 2003.

As reported earlier, Sobhraj was imprisoned in Nepal since 2003 after he was arrested on allegations of murdering American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and has spent 19 years of a 20-year sentence. He denied murdering the American woman, and his defenders said the accusation was based on speculation. Sobhraj was also convicted guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian acquaintance, Laurent Carriere, some years later. However, he was suspected of many more crimes, including one in Thailand, where police said he reportedly drugged and murdered six women in the 1970s, some of whom were discovered dead on a beach near the Pattaya resort.

He was also imprisoned in India for poisoning a group of French visitors in the city of New Delhi, in 1976, before facing accusations in Thailand. It is said that Charles has murdered around 20 women from countries like India, Thailand, Nepal, Turkey and Iran. After his release today, he says he wants to go to France and meet his first family.

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