(From left) Ejazuddin, Zakir, Aslam, Fazal and Mehboob alias Guddu
Bhopal, Oct. 1: Seven Simi activists scripted a Hollywood-style jailbreak today, escaping from a Madhya Pradesh prison using bed sheets to squeeze out of a hole in the bathroom wall and scaling the 30ft high compound wall before attacking an unsuspecting patrol team and snatching their weapons.
One of the seven members — all being tried over the murder of a policeman four years ago — was arrested a few hours after the dramatic 3am getaway from Khandwa jail, over 300km from Bhopal from where they had been brought a few days ago for a court hearing.
Five jail officials, including the deputy jail superintendent, have been suspended and the Union home ministry has asked the state’s BJP government to send a report.
Abid Mirza, caught later from a hideout in the town, revealed a “meticulous” plan drawn up by group leader Abu Fazal that intelligence officials said involved the members splitting into two groups and taking separate routes aided by maps.
The activists may be heading towards Mumbai, officials said, pointing out that kingpin Fazal is a native of Juhu. Fazal is a former chief of Simi’s Madhya Pradesh unit.
Simi, the acronym for the Students Islamic Movement of India, was banned in 2001. Its members are alleged to have links with homegrown terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM). Many Simi members are in jails across the country.
Khandwa falls under the Malwa region, considered a “hotbed” of Simi activists. Dozens of its underground members have been arrested from the area in the past few years.
The other prisoners who escaped today have been identified as Ejazuddin, Zakir Badul, Aslam Ayub, Amjad and Mehboob alias Guddu. Some of them are from Khandwa. They had been held in 2010-11 over the murder of cop Sitaram Yadav in November 2009.
Jail superintendent Sunil Thakur admitted that a knife was smuggled inside the prison. “The undertrials escaped by scaling the high walls of the prison using bed sheets.”
Other officials said the prisoners took around half-an-hour to get out of jail and then began walking under the cover of darkness.
The police patrol team that spotted them a little later mistook them for miscreants or petty thieves.
Confronted, they flashed knives, stabbed some of the policemen and escaped after looting some police .303 rifles, a wireless set and two motorcycles. A constable and a homeguard are in hospital with stab injuries.
The motorcycles were recovered hours later near a farmhouse, with officials saying the two-wheelers probably got stuck in mud and the suspects were forced to abandon them.
Officials in intelligence department said the prisoners had split into two groups. “They had maps and drawings that showed way to Khandwa railway station,” said a source.
State minister of prisons Antar Singh Arya ordered a probe by the principal secretary of his department. “The government will take action against the guilty jail personnel after the probe is over,” he said as senior officers rushed from Bhopal to assist the local administration in tracking down the suspects.
Among the jail officers suspended were the deputy superintendent, two chief wardens and three wardens, sources said.
At the local level, Khandwa collector Neeraj Dube has asked an additional district magistrate to conduct an investigation and submit the report within seven days, the sources said.