INDORE: In a setback to counter-terror operations, seven hardcore terror suspects and operatives of banned Students Islamic Movement of India cut opened the iron bars of Khandwa jail’s bathroom window and broke free after stabbing two security guards. They looted rifles and wireless sets amid a hail of bullets at around 3.30am on Tuesday. The seven undertrials are charged with terror and other heinous crimes as members of SIMI, which is linked to home-grown terror outfits like the Indian Mujahideen, police sources said.
State additional director general (prisons) Muniraju said the undertrials used bedsheets to rappel down the wall before escaping on two motorcycles parked in the jail premises – suggesting it was a planned escape. They were challenged by two constables whom they stabbed with knives and snatched their rifles, another officer said. The prison doesn’t have perimeter fencing or even searchlights and the lone watch-tower was unmanned.
There was firing when two special forces jawans tried to prevent their flight but were overpowered. The undertrials grabbed their rifles and wireless sets as well before fleeing.
A red-faced Madhya Pradesh government suspended jail in charge DSP Sunil Sharma for tardy security and launched a manhunt, arresting one of the escaped criminals. But the Centre, taking a dim view of the audacious jail-break, sought an explanation from the government. It also sent a dozen-odd teams to Madhya Pradesh to help in the search for the terror undertrials.
Those who escaped are Amjad, Zakir, Guddu, Aslam, Abu Faizal, Ejazuddin. Abid was re-arrested. All are in the age group of 25-35 years and were nabbed in the last two years. They were brought to Khandwa from different jails in the state around six weeks back for court appearance in a case. Significantly, the jail which is meant to house not more than 170 inmates had 570 prisoners. It had only 26 guards against the 87 required.
Others apart from the DSP suspended by the government are chief wardens Vijendra Tiwari and Chotelal Yadav, and three wardens, Manish Gajbhiye, Harishankar Singh and Narendra Lahri, said official sources.
The MP government briefed the Centre on the jailbreak, indicating possible lapses on part of prison security. Senior state officials told Union home secretary Anil Goswami that while one of the SIMI operatives was caught, a dozen police teams are on trail of the escaped terror suspects.
According to SP, Khandwa, a manhunt is in progress to arrest the absconders and districts surrounding Indore are on high alert, said the DIG (Indore) Rakesh Gupta. Also the jail minister of Madhya Pradesh Antar Singh Arya has ordered a high level probe in the Khandwa jail break incident.
Of the seven under-trials, two are charged with killing three people in broad daylight in Indore a few years back. Minister for jails Antar Singh Arya has asked principal secretary of his department to conduct a probe.