UK terror suspect Rauf flees from Pak custody
Islamabad: A British man suspected of plotting to blow up USbound trans-Atlantic airliners has escaped from police custody in Pakistan, officials said early on Sunday.
“Rashid Rauf escaped from police custody and we are making every possible effort to re-arrest him,” interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.
Rauf was arrested in central Pakistan in August 2006 and had been behind bars since then.
The twenty-five-year-old was brought before a judge at a court in Islamabad for an extradition hearing when he escaped on Saturday afternoon. Recently the British government requested Pakistan extradite Rauf to London where he is wanted by police in connection with the murder of his uncle in 2002.
Rauf ’s lawyer Hashmat Habib said that his client had disappeared from police custody under “mysterious circumstances”.
“Police took my client from Adiala jail Saturday afternoon for a court appearance in nearby Islamabad and now they say he’s escaped.
“It comes at a time when the British government is trying to extradite him. And it all looks very suspicious to me,” Habib said early on Sunday.
Islamabad police said they are questioning several policemen who were deployed on guard duty.
Local police said he was brought to the court from the nearby city of Rawalpindi, where the jail is located, and disappeared at around 2.30pm-3.00pm. His lawyer was not with him at the time of his disappearance, the lawyer said.
A senior Islamabad police official said on condition of anonymity that prison authorities did not inform them in detail about who Rauf was and only a handful of police officers were deployed for his security.
The senior police officer said: “Soon after the court proceeding as police were escorting him to a prison van he broke free from the handcuffs and ran away.”
Pakistan’s arrest of British national Rauf in 2006 sparked a worldwide security alert and arrests in Britain.
A day after his arrest a massive security alert was clamped on London’s Heathrow Airport with mass cancellations of flights for several days over fears of a terrorist attack.
Rauf had faced charges including impersonation, carrying a fake identity card and fake documents, which he denied.
He was arrested in central Pakistan early August 2006, shortly before 24 people were detained in Britain in a major swoop. An antiterrorism court in Pakistan last December dropped terrorism charges against him relating to the conspiracy to detonate liquid explosives on jets flying from London to the United States in August.
Its order was suspended when the Punjab government lodged its appeal. In April, the Pakistani foreign ministry denied reports that Rauf would be extradited to Britain in exchange for separatist leaders.