Zee News : Musharraf seeks report on terror suspect Rauf`s escape

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Musharraf seeks report on terror suspect Rauf`s escape

December 17, 2007

Islamabad, Dec 17: President Pervez Musharraf has sought a report on the escape of terror suspect Rashid Rauf after details of police lapses that emerged on Monday caused major embarrassment to the Pakistan government.

The police are hunting for Rauf, who escaped on Saturday after his two police guards reportedly allowed him to go into a mosque for prayers while being driven back to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi in a private car.

Some reports suggested that the car was being driven by Rauf's uncle Muhammad Rafiq, who accompanied him into the mosque and disappeared along with him.

Musharraf spoke to caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan and sought a detailed report on the escape.

Khan said a high-level committee is already probing the matter and a report will be submitted by Tuesday, officials said.

The president said action should be initiated against any police official found to be involved in the matter.

The police have questioned Rauf's kin at Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Federal Investigation Agency is keeping a watch on exit points across the country.

Rauf has been linked to al Qaeda and is married to a relative of Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar.

Rauf, a Briton of Pakistan origin, was arrested at Bhawalpur in Pakistan in August last year for allegedly being linked to a terrorist plot to bomb airliners going from Britain to the US. A Pakistani court later dropped terrorism charges against him but he was accused of possessing bomb-making materials and fake travel and identity documents.

News reports said the two policemen assigned to guard Rauf, Constables Wazirzada and Muhammad Tufail, allowed him to travel from Islamabad, where he had been brought to appear in a court, to the jail in Rawalpindi in a private car.

Terror suspect Rauf asked the policemen to let him stop at a restaurant where his uncle bought food for all of them. Rauf then asked to be allowed to offer afternoon prayers at a mosque and fled along with his uncle.

The policemen waited in the car when Rauf entered the mosque. Some reports said the policemen even removed his handcuffs to allow him to pray and officials said this was an act of "sheer negligence".

A police team led by Islamabad's SSP Syed Kaleem Imam is now questioning the two constables, who were arrested. The constables said they waited for Rauf for about 20 minutes.

Constable Tufail went into the mosque when he did not return, only to find that Rauf had escaped through the back door. An officer engaged in the investigation told The News daily that a "high profile suspect" like Rauf should always be "escorted by heavily guarded police vehicles".

Surprisingly, senior officials were alerted two-and-half hours after the escape and no message was sent out on the police wireless network.

Though an anti-terrorism court dropped terrorism charges against Rauf, a higher court in Lahore suspended the ruling until January 15, 2008 in response to an appeal by authorities. The Pakistan government was also considering a request from Britain for Rauf's extradition.

The British High Commission sought information on Rauf's escape and Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah said he had talked to the British High Commissioner and "apprised him on the issue".

Shah said Rauf was still in the country and authorities would keep an eye on land routes, "especially those leading to Afghanistan because it might be possible that he would try to escape to Afghanistan through tribal areas".

However, members of Rauf's family and his lawyer Hashmat Habib termed the matter a "mysterious disappearance".