In­dian po­lice gun down es­caped Is­lamist pris­on­ers

In­mates flee af­ter slash­ing guard’s throat

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

In­dian po­lice gunned down eight Is­lamists yes­ter­day af­ter they es­caped from a high-se­cu­rity jail by slit­ting the throat of a prison guard and scal­ing the walls with knot­ted bed­sheets. The mem­bers of the banned Stu­dents Is­lamic Move­ment of In­dia (SIMI) had staged the break­out from the prison in Bhopal by at­tack­ing and mur­der­ing the warder with sharp­ened prison-is­sue steel kitchen plates in the mid­dle of cel­e­bra­tions to mark the Hindu fes­ti­val of Di­wali. Po­lice said they were later cor­nered on the out­skirts of the city in the cen­tral state of Mad­hya Pradesh but re­sisted ef­forts to take them back into cus­tody and were sub­se­quently shot dead.

“We asked them to sur­ren­der but they tried to break the po­lice cor­don,” Yo­gesh Choudhary, Bhopal’s in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice said. “They were un­armed but at­tempted to at­tack the po­lice with stones. We had to shoot them.” Choudhary, how­ever, later told re­porters that “they had weapons and cross-fir­ing took place”. TV im­ages showed crude pis­tols ly­ing next to the bod­ies, trig­ger­ing scep­ti­cism in some quar­ters about the po­lice ver­sion of events. “Se­cu­rity forces have the right to use pro­por­tion­ate force to save lives, but it ap­pears in this case that the sus­pects may not have been armed,” Meenakshi Gan­guly, South Asia di­rec­tor for Hu­man Rights Watch said.

“The en­tire in­ci­dent should be prop­erly in­ves­ti­gated. A take-no-pris­on­ers ap­proach to polic­ing is dan­ger­ous and harms ef­forts to cre­ate a right­sre­spect­ing po­lice force.” Af­ter us­ing their sheets to climb and de­scend sev­eral walls in­side the prison, the in­mates made their way on foot to a vil­lage 15 kilo­me­ters south of the city cen­tre, de­spite a mas­sive search. Po­lice said lo­cal res­i­dents had alerted them about sus­pi­cious move­ments in the vil­lage, lead­ing to the raid in the late morn­ing. The home min­istry had ear­lier is­sued a na­tion­wide red alert over the jail­break, while po­lice had re­leased mugshots of the pris­on­ers.

Prison boss sus­pended

Po­lice in­sist there was no break­down in se­cu­rity at the prison, a sup­pos­edly max­i­mum se­cu­rity fa­cil­ity which has a round-the-clock elec­tronic sur­veil­lance sys­tem. How­ever four of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the prison’s su­per­in­ten­dent, have been sus­pended and an in­quiry launched into the es­cape. Mad­hya Pradesh’s Chief Min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan told re­porters the break­out posed a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity and au­thor­i­ties swiftly mo­bi­lized all law en­force­ment arms to track the fugi­tives. He said the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency had been asked to open an in­quiry into the break­out and any­one found to have acted in­com­pe­tently would be pros­e­cuted. Most of the in­mates had been await­ing trial for “ter­ror-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties, sedi­tion and rob­bery” for more than three years, although two of them had only been de­tained since Fe­bru­ary. The break­out hap­pened on the night of Di­wali, a ma­jor Hindu fes­ti­val when revel­ers tra­di­tion­ally set off fire­works which can shroud the night skies. Seven SIMI mem­bers es­caped from a jail in the town of Khandwa in 2013 and were ar­rested last year af­ter be­ing on the run for over two years, later prompt­ing the govern­ment to house all the ar­rested SIMI mem­bers in the high-se­cu­rity fa­cil­ity in Bhopal.

In­dian au­thor­i­ties have ac­cused SIMI of car­ry­ing out sev­eral deadly bomb­ings and of hav­ing links with Pak­istan-based mil­i­tant groups. Po­lice blamed the group for the se­rial bomb­ing of Mumbai com­muter trains in 2006 which killed 187 peo­ple, as well as bomb blasts in New Delhi. The govern­ment banned the group in 2001 in the af­ter­math of the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks in New York and Wash­ing­ton. Hun­dreds of its mem­bers have been ar­rested in the past decade, but the group says it merely prop­a­gates an “Is­lamic way of life” for In­dian Mus­lims. — AFP

BHOPAL: In­dian po­lice gather along­side the bod­ies of SIMI ac­tivists, who es­caped from Cen­tral Jail in Bhopal and were killed by Spe­cial Task Force po­lice at the hillocks of Acharpura vil­lage, near the cap­i­tal Bhopal yes­ter­day. — AFP

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