Gujarat blasts accused gives Mumbai police the slip

    By IANS,

    Mumbai : In a major security breach and an embarrassment for Maharashtra Police, prime accused in Gujarat 2008 blasts and suspected Indian Mujahiddeen (IM) operative Afzal Usmani escaped from police custody while he was being brought to a court here Friday afternoon.

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    Police have launched a manhunt for Usmani who was brought along with around 23 other accused to the Sessions Court in a crowded south Mumbai area under tight security.

    Among other charges, Usmani is accused of involvement in the terror blasts in Ahmedabad and planting over two dozen bombs in Surat in Gujarat in July 2008.

    On July 26, 2008, at least 21 blasts rocked Ahmedabad within an hour, killing 56 and injuring more than 200 people. The explosives were placed in the tiffin-boxes on bicycles, public buses and a couple of hospitals.

    A couple of days later, security agencies discovered 26 live bombs from various locations in the diamond polishing hub of Surat.

    Usmani was being escorted from Taloja Central Jail in adjoining Raigad district to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court here for framing of formal charges against him.

    According to official sources, shortly before he was due to be presented in the court around 3 p.m., Usmani sought permission to go to the toilet and escaped from there before the accompanying security personnel realized the lapse.

    It is not clear whether he was accompanied by a security personnel to the toilet from where he sneaked out to freedom.

    Following Usmani’s shocking escape, Special MCOCA Judge A.L. Pansare adjourned further hearing in the matter till Sep 25.

    “It is an unfortunate incident. This will have an impact on other cases also,” Pansare said, describing the offence as “serious” and “negligence” on the part of the police escort team.

    Expressing displeasure at the development, the court also issued an arrest warrant against Usmani.

    Two police officials from the escort team have been suspended for dereliction of duty.

    An inquiry has been initiated and search teams have been formed in all 12 Mumbai police zones to trace him out.

    The teams were searching for Usmani in hotels, exit points to Mumbai, bus termini and railway stations as well as termini, besides checking out with cabbies and autorickshaw drivers for clues.