Arrests made on basis of ‘scientific evidence’, says ADGP Munir Khan, praising police for ‘cracking case within 4 hours’
Srinagar: The plan to free Lashkar’s Naveed Jatt aka Abu Hanzullah was conceived four months ago, the police said on Thursday while claiming to have made headway in the case by arresting four persons, including militants and Over Ground Workers (OGWs) allegedly involved in the escape of the high-profile prisoner at SMHS hospital.
Addressing a crowded presser in Srinagar, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Munir Khan said that on the basis of “scientific evidence,” the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to probe Hanzullah’s escape has arrested four persons “involved” in the conspiracy.
Flanked by senior police officers, Khan told the press, “On the basis of scientific evidence, the over ground workers and the militants involved in the incident were identified by the SIT. We also identified the vehicles used by them for transportation of the terrorist. Afterwards, we conducted raids in Kakapora Pulwama and apprehended four persons, namely Shakeel Bhat, Tikka Khan, Rahil Kachroo and OGW Mohammad Shafi.”
He said Shakeel Bhat was the mastermind of the escape of the 22-year-old Pakistani militant. Police said that a fifth man, identified as Hilal of Pulwama, also helped in the escape but he is absconding.
Without giving details about the “scientific evidence”, Khan said that the police were looking forward to “smash the whole network” and “neutralise them”.
“Once they were apprehended, they made certain revelations,” Khan said. “The conspiracy to make the escape of LeT terrorist was hatched four months ago. The militants had planned to get him released from Pulwama court, but they realized it could not happen. They dropped the plan and chose the SMHS hospital.”
Khan said that before pulling off the escape, Tikka Khan and Hilal Rather, both active militants, visited Central Jail Srinagar multiple times, and were in constant touch on phone with Hanzullah.
On Tuesday, militants opened fire in the city’s busy SMHS hospital killing two policemen and freeing Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant Abu Hanzullah from police custody. The militant had been taken to the hospital with a group of six prisoners for medical check-up.
“On the day of the attack, the two conspirators came to SMHS hospital and parked their bike and car at different locations,” Khan said. “As the detenue was being brought to the hospital, Hilal and Tajamul both opened fire. Then Naveed and Hilal ran towards the parking area of the hospital where Shakil was waiting.”
The police officer said that the militants also handed over a pistol to Hanzullah, who was spotted firing in the air at the hospital in CCTV footage.
“We could have easily opened fire, but we could not as there were too many civilians and patients inside the hospital,” Khan said. “The police protect the civilians while the terrorists kill innocent people.”
Khan said that later the trio, Shakil, Naveed and Hilal, drove towards Abdullah Bridge and took refuge at a nearby place in Srinagar city. He refused to identify the place as according to him it would hinder the ongoing investigations.
“It was Tikka Khan who in the evening came to pick them up. When we went to that place, Hilal and Naveed had left the place,” he said. “The car of Muhammad Shafi was used to transport the militant.”
“So, a criminal conspiracy was hatched in connivance with other fellows,” the police officer said, adding that the police were withholding some information due to the ongoing investigations.
“It apparently seems the Lashkar has no designated leadership,” khan said. “All their commanders have been killed and it seems Naveed will fill that void.”
In response to a question, Khan said police had a pretty good idea of the danger posed by “hardcore Pakistani” militants, whom they wanted to segregate. “We have already sent nine Pakistani militants to different jails of Jammu. We also wanted to shift Naveed there but the court stayed his shifting,” Khan said. “The police should be commended as they cracked the case within four hours.”