The Press Association : Terror suspect in mosque escape

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Terror suspect in mosque escape

December 17, 2007

A Briton arrested in Pakistan over an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic jets escaped on the way to jail after his guards stopped so he could say prayers, police said.

Rashid Rauf then slipped out of the mosque's back door.

New details of Rauf's escape, a major embarrassment for President Pervez Musharraf's government, emerged two days after he got away following a court appearance in Islamabad over Britain's request for his extradition.

A police official, speaking anonymously, said Rauf was being taken back to Adiala Jail - a high-security prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi - when he asked his police guards to let him say afternoon prayers at a roadside mosque.

"The policemen accepted his request," the official said. "Rashid Rasuf went inside the mosque with handcuffs on, but he slipped out from a rear door."

The official said officers had raided addresses of Rauf's relatives with no success, adding that the two police officers made statements during interrogation, admitting they were waiting in a car outside the mosque when Rauf went inside.

Interior minister Hamid Nawaz assured British ambassador Robert Brinkely that the suspect's capture was a "priority", British High Commission spokeswoman Laura Davies said.

Interior secretary Kamal Shah said security teams were searching the country and would report back within three days.

Rauf, who is of Pakistani origin, was arrested in Pakistan in August 2006 on a tip from British investigators.

Pakistan described him as a key suspect in a purported plot to blow up planes flying from Britain to the US, prompting a major security alert at world airports and increased restrictions on carry-on items.