Afzal Usmani, an alleged member of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, slipped away from the custody of Navi Mumbai police on Friday after he was taken to the special MCOCA court in south Mumbai.
Around 1.30 pm, Usmani, an accused in the July 2008 Ahmedabad blasts that claimed 56 lives and injured over 200, was taken to the court complex, along with 22 other accused from Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai. Ten policemen were escorting the accused, who were to appear in the MCOCA court for a hearing to frame charges.
According to police officials, the accused were produced before the judge who asked them to reappear around 2.45 pm. Before the end of the lunch hour, all the accused were brought out in the gallery to be taken again inside court no 35, on the third floor of the complex that also houses the sessions court.
But after a headcount, the police team found Usmani missing. Sources said he had asked to be taken to the toilet urgently, from where he made his escape.
“We have registered an FIR under IPC section 224 (resistance to lawful apprehension) against Usmani in Colaba police station,” said DCP Ravindra Shisve of Zone 1.
A DCP-level inquiry has been initiated by Navi Mumbai police. Assistant Sub-inspector Sanjay Deshmukh and Sub-inspector Ram Chopade, attached to Navi Mumbai police, have been suspended. Mumbai police have formed special search teams in all twelve zones and launched a manhunt for him.
Who is Afzal Usmani?
Usmani (35), a native of Azamgarh district in Uttar Pradesh, was a resident of Nehru Nagar, Kurla (East). Other than his involvement in the Ahmedabad blasts case, he was arrested for allegedly stealing four cars from Vashi, which were later found strapped with explosives in Surat in the 2008 attempted bombing case.
A scrap dealer, he also had alleged links with the Fazal-ur-Rahman gang. Nine criminal cases, one of them under the harsh Maharashtra Control of Organsied Crime Act (MCOCA), have been registered against him.
Usmani's brother Faiz was called in for questioning after the July 13, 2011 blasts. He died under mysterious circumstances hours later.