Qayoom Khan / Gowhar Bashir
Srinagar, Feb 8: Police has arrested four people for their alleged involvement in Pakistan-born Lashker-e-Taiba militant Mohammed Naveed Jhatt’s escape from the busy SMHS hospital here, police said.
Shakeel Bhat, Tika Khan, Rahil Kachroo and Mohammad Shafi are the four people arrested in connection with Jhatt’s escape, police said.
They said Bhat was the mastermind of the escape of 22-year-old Jhatt alias Abu Hanzalla on February 6.
Bhat’s motorcycle had been used in the escape of the militant, police said.
Khan, a resident of Pulwama, is alleged to have provided his car for further transportation of Jhatt out of the city, police said.
Jhatt is at present believed to be in the Pulwama area of South Kashmir, they said.
Kachroo was another accomplice who had provided help in Jhatt’s escape after firing bullets at policemen.
Shafi, who is from Narbal on the outskirts of Srinagar city, had posed as a patient to provide cover for the militant’s escape.
All the four were arrested after police, based on intelligence inputs, conducted raids at various places in Pulwama.
Earlier, officials had said five people have been arrested in connection with Jhatt’s escape.
However, police said a fifth man identified as Hilal of Pulwama who helped in the escape is absconding and believed to be with Jhatt.
Jhatt had managed to escape on Tuesday after at least two other militants attacked the police escort team at SMHS Hospital here, killing two cops.
In a related development, Jammu and Kashmir Home department has suspended Superintendent of Central Jail Hilal Ahmed Rather pending an enquiry, an official order said here.
Rather will remain attached to the Director General of Prison’s office till the enquiry is over.
Khan who is officiating also as Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range) confirmed that Naveed opened fire at the policemen who were escorting him and five other prisoners to Srinagar’s government-run Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) for routine check-up.
“Hilal Ahmed Rather (a Hizb-ul-Mujahedin militant who along with Naveed is at large) gave Naveed a pistol inside the casualty ward of the SMHS,” he said.
The police officer also said that during investigations it has come to the fore that Naveed spent the rest of the day in Srinagar itself and travelled to southern Pulwama district late Tuesday evening.
“After shooting two policemen, he travelled via Abdullah Bridge (which spans Jhelum River near Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar) to reach a safe place. He was in the city and it was only in the evening that another OGW (over-ground worker) picked him up and took him to south Kashmir,” he said.
A motorcycle was used to take Naveed from the hospital in Srinagar’s Kaka Sarai area to the northern part of the city across Jhelum. In the evening, he travelled in a vehicle to relocate to Pulwama.
The police officer disclosed that Rather and another militant Tika Khan had met Naveed twice in Srinagar Central Jail. He added that they had tried to ‘free’ him also from a court in Pulwama some time ago.
He said two pistols each have been recovered along with ammunition from two militants Shakil Ahmed Butt and Tika Khan. He said that on February 6 the accused went to the SMHS hospital in Maruti Car bearing Registration No. JK01J-9611 owned by Wani and a Pulsar bike belonging to Shakil Butt.
“On the day of incident, all the accused, as per the plan, moved towards the SMHS Hospital Srinagar where Naveed was being taken for medical check-up. The gang members took their respective positions in and around the hospital premises and waited for the arrival of Naveed. At around 11.30 am, the police team escorting the prisoner arrived in the hospital which was closely being monitored by the accused persons, who had mixed themselves with the attendants and patients,” Khan said.
He added that Naveed was taken inside the hospital for the check-up and the gang members rushed inside the hospital and fired on the cops from very close range and taking advantage of the huge rush of public, patients and attendants managed to escape, along with him.
“Other dimensions of conspiracy including the leakage of information about the movement of militant Naveed to the hospital is being thoroughly looked into,” he said.
Asked as to why the police didn’t open fire to foil the escape at the Srinagar hospital, Khan said, “We don’t believe in killings”.
He said that the police exercised restraint as opening fire at a place crowed with patients, attendants and hospital staff could have caused wanton casualties.