Indian Express : Rauf escape an ISI plot to avoid handover to UK, says report

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rauf escape an ISI plot to avoid handover to UK, says report

Press Trust Of India | December 24, 2007

London, December 23: Terror suspect Rashid Rauf did not escape from custody last week but was kidnapped by Pakistan’s intelligence agency as part of an “organised disappearance” plot, a media report said on Sunday quoting people close to the man arrested in connection with the plan to bomb US-bound trans-Atlantic airliners last year.

The official description of Rauf’s getaway has been met with disbelief, many wondering how an alleged al-Qaeda operative held in Pakistan’s highest-security detention unit could manage to walk away from custody.

The authorities in Pakistan have blamed junior policemen escorting Rauf back to jail after a court hearing in Islamabad where he was fighting moves to extradite him to Britain in connection with a murder case.

Rauf’s lawyer and a close family friend have said that they believed he had been taken into custody by Pakistan’s secret security-service and they feared for his life. They believed the country’s powerful Inter-services intelligence (ISI) did not want him to be extradited to Britain and had abducted him to preempt any court decision to deport him.

Hashmat Habib, Raufs lawyer, said his client was being victimised because the Pakistani authorities have been forced to drop all charges against Rauf over the transatlantic terror plot.

“In my estimate its an organised disappearance. They don’t want to hand him over. He was fixed up and the government is now afraid that he would become an embarrassment if sent to the UK because they hyped up his involvement,” Habib was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times on Sunday.

Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan intelligence agent who counts Osama Bin Laden as a friend, believed that Rauf might have been “taken away by the ISI” and feared that his friend might be shot dead while “on the run”.

Rauf had been held with al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan's highest-security unit in Rawalpindi until his "escape" last weekend. Several questions were raised about the circumstances in which he escaped.

Khawaja, who had shared a cell with the terror suspect, said Rauf did not have the wherewithal to plot an escape.

"He was a high-value prisoner wanted by the British. How could he just get a chance to run away like this? It is not possible without the active involvement of the government. Now they have said he ran away. If hes found killed no one will question it because he ran away," Khawaja was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times.

Rauf, a British national of Pakistani-origin, was arrested in the Islamic nation in August last year at the same time as 25 men were held in Britain after police uncovered an alleged plot to blow up 12 airliners flying to the United States from Heathrow and Gatwick.