The News : Rauf’s escape shrouded in mystery

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rauf’s escape shrouded in mystery

By Shakeel Anjum | December 17, 2007

ISLAMABAD: A pattern of extreme irresponsibility and dereliction of duty emerged on Sunday as details came to light of how terror suspect Rashid Rauf managed to escape from police custody on Saturday, although Islamabad police had been warned in writing that he was a hardened criminal and required extra security.

Sources revealed to The News that Rauf had been allowed by the two cops who were taking him back to jail from the court to go for prayers inside a mosque with his handcuffs on while the cops agreed to wait for him in a private car. He escaped from the mosque with his handcuffs on.

It is also learnt that a warning letter was sent to the capital police by the superintendent district jail to tighten security of the high profile British national of Pakistani origin, as he was a hardened criminal, Adiala jail sources told The News.

The letter, dispatched in the second week of December, was addressed to SP (Headquarters) as well as a DSP of the police headquarters responsible for deploying duties,the sources said, and added that the authorities, taking it as a routine letter, marked it to the higher authorities without taking any measures to beef up Rauf’s security.

Rashid Rauf, allegedly involved in a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners in Britain, escaped from police custody inexplicably on Saturday evening while going back to jail after his production before a court of law.

A team under the direct supervision of SSP Islamabad Syed Kaleem Imam, was investigating the case and working on different tracks and questioning two policemen, Constables Wazirzada and Muhammad Tufail, who were taking him to jail, the sources said.

The detained cops told the investigating team that they were going to Adiala Jail with the suspect in a private cab with the consent of Inspector (Hawalaat) at about 3.00 pm. Rauf had his handcuffs on. As they reached Adiala Road, near Gulshan-e-Abad, the suspect said that he wanted to perform his prayers and asked the policemen to wait for him in the cab, the policemen said.They added that they kept waiting for him for about 20 minutes but he did not return. Constable Tufail went inside the mosque but Rauf had escaped, with his handcuffs, using the rear door, they maintained. ††††

“The authorities took the transportation of the suspect so non-seriously that only two cops were deputed to move him and that too in a private cab instead of a police mobile van,” an officer engaged in the investigation said.

“Apparently, Inspector (Hawalaat) is responsible for his escape because he is supposed to take the undertrial inmates from jail and send them back escorted by heavily guarded police vehicles,” the officer said.

But the case was absolutely different here, he said and added:†”Reserve Inspector (RI) headquarters sent the ‘special team’ comprising two constables to fetch the high profile suspect from jail by a private car instead of police van and to take him back to jail in the same way.”

“The police high-ups were informed about his escape about two-and-a-half hours after the incident,” the officer said. Astonishingly, no message was sent on the police wireless system alerting other stations, which is highly intriguing.

Rashid Rauf was arrested in August on a tip from British intelligence agencies and charged with possessing chemicals that could be used in making explosives and with carrying forged travel documents.

The prosecution later withdrew the case against him and held him accountable only for possessing bomb-making materials and living in Pakistan without valid documents. Later, a higher court ó acting on an appeal by the Pakistani authorities ó suspended the anti-terrorism court’s ruling until January 15, 2008. However, a court extended his detention until January 19 and the law enforcing agencies booked him under 3 MPO (maintenance of public order).

The official relating to the prosecution section said that Rashid Rauf had remained in jail awaiting a decision on a British extradition request. He said that he left the UK soon after his uncle was stabbed to death in 2002, and the British authorities had asked Pakistan to extradite him in connection with the murder inquiry.