Saturday, September 21, 2013

IM serial bomber flees from city sessions court

Afzal Usmani

Had Key Role In 2008 Blasts In Gujarat


Rebecca Samervel & Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: In an embarrassing security lapse, an Indian Mujahideen operative accused of involvement in half a dozen bombings across the country escaped from the Mumbai sessions court on Friday. 

    Afzal Usmani (37), along with 22 co-accused, was taken from Navi Mumbai’s Taloja jail to the court in south Mumbai for framing of charges in a case linked to the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, which killed 56 people. He is accused of stealing vehicles for the terror strike and sending terror emails before and after it.
    While the accused were waiting on the court premises for the hearing to begin, Usmani slipped away and absconded. His escape was realized only later.  The police have suspended two officers who were escorting the accused, instituted a departmental inquiry and launched a massive manhunt. They said nakabandis have been erected around the city, and bus and railway stations are being scoured. 

    “This is a considerable blow,” conceded an officer. “If he is not caught soon, there are chances he will help the Indian Mujahideen again. He is accused of taking part in terror conspiracies in Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Bangalore.”   Usmani was arrested by the Mumbai police’s crime branch in September, 2008, for stealing cars. During interrogation, he allegedly admitted his
involvement in the Ahmedabad blasts. His arrest then led the police to 22 other suspects in the case.

    Officers noted that this is the second time Usmani has given them the slip. In 1999, he jumped bail in a theft case and travelled to Pakistan.  On Friday, Usmani and the 22 others were taken to the court in two police vans and produced at 1pm before special MCOCA judge A L Pansare.

TERROR CHARGES Accused of sending terror emails before and after the 2008 Ahmedabad serial bombings
Drove stolen cars to Ahmedabad and planted bomb there
Accused in 2007 terror plot in Hyderabad, and in 2008 Surat, Delhi, Jaipur and Bangalore blasts
Afzal Mutalib Usmani (37) came to Mumbai from UP two decades ago. He became a petty thief and later joined the dreaded Fazl-ur-Rehman gang as a car stealer. Stole four cars for IM kingpin Riyaz Bhatkal. Was arrested from Nehru Nagar in Kurla in Sept 2008 
    Usmani had been brought to the sessions court from Taloja jail around 1pm along with 22 others for framing of charges in a case related to the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts
    Post lunch,
assistant inspector Ram Chopde asked ASI Sanjay Deshmukh, who was minding Usmani, to find out when the hearing would start. By the time Deshmukh returned, Usmani had absconded 
 Usmani escaped while escorting cop was away
Mumbai: An error on the part of assistant police inspector Ram Chopde, who was supervising the policemen escorting Afzal Usmani, may have allowed the terror accused to escape.
    Chopde sent Usmani’s escort, assistant sub-inspector Sanjay Deshmukh, to the courtroom to find out when the hearing will begin after they were directed by the court to return during the post-lunch session at 2.45pm. Deshmukh left at 2.35pm; by the time he returned, Usmani was gone. Officers said it helped Usmani that the court was teeming with relatives of undertrials. They said there are no CCTV cameras at the premises, or the gates, of the civil and sessions court, which is barely 200 metres away from the state police headquarters.
    Usmani’s escape came to light around 2.45pm, when the accused were to be produced before the court. The police escorts realized Usmani was missing and an officer informed the special public prosecutor, Raja Thakre, that there was “a problem with the headcount of the accused”.

    On Thakre’s request, judge Pansare directed the court clerk to take attendance. When accused number one, Usmani, did not respond, his escape was confirmed. Deshmukh was summoned to the witness box and his statement recorded. Hearing the statement, the judge remarked: “This is negligence; this is not right. This will have an impact on other cases.”    The court adjourned the framing of charges until September 27.
    “We are recording Deshmukh’s statement and complaint. We will register a case against Usmani at the Colaba police station under IPC section 224 (escaping from custody),” said additional commissioner of police (south region) Krishna Prakash. Additional commissioner of police (Navi Mumbai) Fateh Singh Patil added that Deshmukh and Chopde have been suspended for negligence and a departmental inquiry instituted. Prakash said many teams are tracing Usmani .

The Times of India, September 21, 2013

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