Lucknow, Jan. 18: As she tossed and turned, unable to catch sleep on the Sealdah-Jammu Tawi Express, a woman travelling in coach S2 could sense something eerie in the air.
The fairly tall, bearded Pakistani-looking man, handcuffs on one wrist, was looking restless, his mind ticking overtime. And the four cops guarding him or escorting him somewhere were happily snoring.
Suddenly, it clicked. Literally catching the cops napping, the man appeared to be plotting his getaway.
Without as much as breathing or making a sound, she tried to shake the foursome awake. No luck. They snored and snored, without a worry in the world.
A little later, around 2.30 am, the train began to slow down. Perhaps there was a red signal, the woman thought. Or perhaps it was approaching Mughalsarai.
The next minute, the man in the handcuffs was gone ' he jumped off the running train and melted away into the wintry night between Mughalsarai and Veerapath stations.
Lashkar militant Ali Ahmed today escaped from under the noses of his sleeping escorts from the train taking him to Jammu and Kashmir to be produced in court.
The five-foot-eight militant is from Suchak village of Pokhara district in Pakistani Punjab. He was arrested last November from Hili in Bengal’s South Dinajpur district while trying to sneak in from Bangladesh.
Police sources in Balurghat said Ahmed, in South Dinajpur district jail since November 22, is charged with attacking army camps in Jammu and Kashmir and killing two army personnel. He is believed to have joined the Lashkar in 1999.
The team of four ' a sub-inspector and three constables ' had landed in Balurghat on Monday, armed with an order from the Jammu chief judicial magistrate. They had taken Ahmed to Calcutta yesterday and boarded the train from Sealdah.
But the foursome was spared further embarrassment after Ahmed was caught crouching behind a college in Parmanandpur village near Varanasi this evening. Villagers turned him over to the police.
Earlier, Lucknow superintendent of police Anant Deo expressed surprise that the policemen ' Mahendra Singh, Anup Kaul, Seopal Singh and Zakir Ahmed ' had been sleeping on their jobs.
“We are surprised to discover that the security escorts were sleeping, leaving the militant free to hatch his plan to give them the slip,” he said.
The four, who had an AK 56 and small weapons between them, informed the Varanasi Government Railway Police of the mishap. They were detained for questioning and a hunt for the militant launched.
“Two teams comprising 20 constables were sent for the search operation. Gram pradhans of neighbouring villages have been alerted,” Deo said.
Police sources in South Dinajpur said Ahmed was a class VIII dropout but was fluent in Hindi and Urdu. He trained under the Lashkar for six months in 1999 before infiltrating into Kupwara district.
Since then, he has visited Delhi, Punjab, Ahmedabad and Bihar on “organisational” work. He then returned to Pakistan and re-entered Kashmir in 2004. Last August, he left for Bangladesh and sneaked into Bengal’s North Dinajpur through the Islampur border with the help of a tout but was arrested.