Mumbai, Sep 20: In a major embarrassment for the Mumbai police, Gujarat 2008 blasts accused and suspected Indian Mujahiddeen (IM) operative Afzal Usmani escaped from custody while he was being brought to a court here Friday afternoon.
Police have launched a manhunt for Usmani who was brought along with seven other accused to the sessions court in the crowded south Mumbai area under tight security.
Among other charges, Usmani is accused of involvement in the terror blasts in Surat and Ahmedabad in neighbouring Gujarat in 2008.
He was being escorted from Taloja Central Jail in adjoining Raigad district to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for the framing of formal charges against him.
According to official sources, shortly before he was due to be presented before 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.
On July 26, 2008, at least 21 terror bombs rocked Ahmedabad within an hour, killing 56 and injuring more than 200 people.
The explosives were placed in the tiffin-boxes on bicycles and in 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.