Daily India : Terror suspect Rashid Rauf was whisked away by his uncle

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Terror suspect Rashid Rauf was whisked away by his uncle

From our ANI Correspondent | December 19, 2007

Islamabad, Dec 18: UK terror suspect Rashid Rauf escaped from custody in Islamabad after police let his uncle drive him back to jail following a court appearance, a security official has said.

Rauf, a British national of Pakistan origin, is wanted for an alleged plan to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners. He slipped away in unclear circumstances on Saturday after appearing before a court.

The details of his escape are likely to cause further embarrassment to the Musharraf regime, which was considering a British request for Rauf's extradition in an unrelated murder case in 2002.

The senior security official said that Rauf's uncle, Mohammad Rafiq, had convinced the two police escorts to make the drive back to jail in Rafiq's more comfortable van instead of a police vehicle.

The official said that on the way to jail in Rawalpindi, Rauf asked for permission to stop at a fast-food restaurant where his uncle bought a meal for all of them.

Then Rauf asked to visit a mosque for prayers, which was also allowed. While the prayer service was going on Rauf and his uncle disappeared.

"Rauf's uncle, who helped him escape from custody, has been arrested and is under interrogation," the official said.

Rauf's lawyer said on Monday that another of his uncles had been arrested.

"I spoke to his family and they said two of his uncles have been arrested and his house in Bahawalpur was raided," Hashmat Habib said.

The superintendent of the jail where Rauf was being held said the police escorts may have even unlocked his handcuffs when he went to pray.

"It is said that he asked permission to offer prayers and the two police officials who were escorting him allowed this," said Mohsin Rafiq, superintendent of Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi.

"It seems his handcuffs would have been removed to let him say his prayers," Rafiq said. "It is sheer police negligence." The two police escorts have also been detained for questioning.

The government has launched a nationwide manhunt for Rauf, and has established a committee to probe the escape with an initial report requested by Tuesday. The British High Commission in Islamabad said that it was in close touch with the Pakistani authorities.

"The High Commissioner spoke on Sunday to the Interior Minister and was assured that Rauf's recapture was a priority for them and that they had set up an inquiry into how the escape had happened," the spokesman said.

Arrested in Pakistan in August last year, Rauf was identified by Pakistani officials as a key figure in a plot to carry out suicide bombings on airliners travelling from London to the US, the Dawn reported.

Copyright Asian News International