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JAMMU: In a well-planned and brazen attack, a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist escaped from the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in the heart of Srinagar after having his two police escorts killed on Tuesday morning.
The terrorist, identified as Naveed Jati alias Abu Hanzullah, a Pakistan national, was brought to the hospital for a medical check-up after he had complained of abdominal pain in jail, Srinagar SSP Imtiyaz Ismail Parray said.
At the hospital, near OPD, Naveed had a scuffle with the escorting police team, the SSP said. Suddenly two persons appeared and opened fire on head constable Mushtaq Ahmad and constable Babar Ahmad, pumping bullets in their chest and abdomen. While Mushtaq was killed on the spot, a critically-injured Babar died during an emergency surgery, a doctor at the hospital said.
DIG central Kashmir GH Bhat said someone among the people present in the hospital had snatched the rifle of one of the cops and opened fire. However, eyewitnesses said two unidentified gunmen had already been waiting in the hospital. They opened fire on the cops to set Naveed free from his handcuffs. After killing the cops, the three fled on a motorbike which was parked in the hospital premises. CCTV footage obtained from the hospital, however, could not provide any clues to the identity of the terrorists, the police said.
Bhat said that a massive hunt had been launched to trace Naveed and his aides. DG prisons S K Mishra ordered an inquiry into Naveed’s escape. “The inquiry will be headed by a DIG-rank officer,” he said.
Naveed, the 22-year-old LeT terrorist from Multan in Pakistan, was responsible for the killing of several policemen in the valley. He was arrested from Shopian in 2014 and moved to Srinagar jail from Kathua two years ago. Security forces had recovered one AK-47 rifle, two Ak-47 magazine and sixty Ak-47 rounds from him at the time of his arrest.
Zeenat Nizam, medical officer at Srinagar Central jail, told TOI that she referred the inmate for a check-up as Naveed had been complaining of abdominal pain for some time.
Reports suggest that terrorists are allowed to use cellphones in Central jail. Also, one of the top terrorists undergoing life imprisonment, is often visited by people who consider him a “godman” and receive ‘taveez’ (amulets) from him, sources said. The terrorists are also known to get ‘wazwan’ (Kashmiri cuisine) in the jail.
Sources said such “lavish treatment” of terrorists in Central jail was extended under the patronage of jail authorities. Jail superintendent Hilal Ahmad Rather, however, denied the charges and said, “We follow the jail manual strictly. There is no question of allowing the use cellphone inside the jail premises,” he said.
Naveed was a trained terrorist and a close associate of Abu Qasim, a top LeT commander who had been killed in an encounter in south Kashmir in 2015.