Zee News : Two policemen held over Rauf`s escape

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two policemen held over Rauf`s escape

Bureau Report | December 18, 2007

Islamabad, Dec 18: Two policemen have been arrested over the escape of Rashid Rauf, who was allegedly involved in a plot to blow up us-bound trans-Atlantic flights in Britain last year, as sleuths stepped up hunt for the terror suspect in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The staff of Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, where Rauf (26) was being held after his arrest last year, was also questioned by authorities in connection with his escape on Saturday.

Rauf fled from the custody after his two police guards allowed him to go into a mosque for prayers while being driven in a private car from Islamabad to Adiala jail. He had been brought to the capital for appearing in a court.

The two constables who were escorting Rauf have been arrested along with Rauf's uncle Muhammad Rafiq, who was picked up from Mirpur. Zahoor, another uncle of Rauf, was also arrested in Rawalpindi, officials said.

"We have been able to block the routes to (Pakistan-occupied) Kashmir, the area to which he (Rauf) belongs, and also to the northern areas," said caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan.

"We have one or two very good leads which we are working on and people who were closely involved in his escape have also been apprehended," Khan told dawn news channel. All exit routes across Pakistan have also been blocked, he said.

Investigators focused on PoK as the family of Rauf, who has been linked to al-Qaeda, belongs to Mirpur town in the region. Some reports also suggested Rauf might try to slip into Afghanistan from the restive northwestern tribal areas.

Asked if he was hopeful that Rauf would be captured soon, Khan said, "yes, this is what I am indicating. But he had a good (head) start of eight-nine hours and that has given him some advantage. If he has gone across (the security) cordon, then it may take a little longer (to capture him)."

The policemen guarding Rauf had agreed to go from Islamabad to Rawalpindi in Rafiq's van instead of traveling in a police vehicle. They permitted Rauf to stop at a Mcdonald's outlet in Rawalpindi where his uncle brought all of them a meal.

The policemen then allowed Rauf and his uncle to stop for prayers in a mosque, and both men slipped out the mosque's back door.

The embarrassment caused by the escape prompted President Pervez Musharraf to seek a report from the Interior Ministry.

Following Rauf's escape, his police guards did not alert their superiors for over five hours and searched for him on their own. Top police officers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi were informed about the incident only at about 9 pm on Saturday.

Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani-origin, is married to a relative of Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Maulana Masood Azhar. A Pakistani court dropped terrorism charges against him but he was accused of possessing bomb-making material and fake travel and identity documents.

Britain has sought Rauf's extradition to question him in connection with the terrorist plot and as a suspect in the murder of his uncle in Birmingham in 2002. Rauf was produced in court on Saturday in connection with Britain's extradition request.