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Police claims breakthrough in LeT militant’s escape

Two days after a Pakistani militant Mohammad Naveed Jhatt was freed by his associates during a shootout at SMHS Hospital here in which two cops were killed, police on Thursday claimed to have made an initial breakthrough by arresting four people.

Addressing a press conference at Police Control Room (PCR) here, Additional Director General of Police, Munir Ahmad Khan, who also holds charge as IGP Kashmir, told reporters that four people including two militants and two over-ground workers (OGWs) have been arrested by the police from Kakpora Pulwama for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy that led to Jhatt’s escape.

He identified the arrested persons, who were presented before the media, as Shakeel Ahmad Bhat and Tika Khan (militants), Syed Tajamul and Mohammad Shafi Wani (OGWs).

Khan said that scientific evidence led the special investigation team of the police, constituted after the attack, to the involvement of five persons of which four have been arrested.

The fifth — Hilal Ahmad Rather, son of Gulam Mohammad Rather of Begam Bagh, Khan Mohalla, Kakpora, is still at large, Khan said. Rather is believed to be the main conspirator and is presently believed to be with Jhatt.

Khan said one pistol each has been recovered from Shakeel Bhat and Tika Khan.

Giving details of the February 06 incident at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, Khan said that Hilal Rather, taking advantage of the heavy rush of patients and attendants in the casualty section, passed on a pistol to Naveed Jhatt and both fired on the policemen who were escorting him and five others who were brought to the hospital for medical check-up.

“As soon as Naveed Jhatt along with other prisoners entered into the hospital premises, Hilal who was waiting for him handed over a pistol to him and they fired on his escorting guard and another Constable rank cop and fled away,” said Khan.

Khan said Hilal Rather and Shakeel Bhat had brought a car and a motorcycle as their means of getaway. They preferred the motorcycle after the incident, he added.

“Hilal Rather and Jhatt after shootout took a Pulsar bike (CHO1BB-37) driven by Shakeel and ran away while Mohammad Shafi and Tika Khan drove the Maruti car (JKO1J-9611).

“From the hospital, Naveed Jhatt was dropped on the other side of Abdullah bridge (Rajbagh) and kept at a place and taken to Kakapora in Pulwama district later in the day. We have identified the place but we are not revealing it so as not to hamper the investigation,” he said.

Khan said the conspiracy to free Naveed Jhatt from police custody was hatched four months ago but did not succeed in the first attempt.

“The initial plan was to take him from Pulwama court but they did not succeed. They formed the second plan, and as part of it Hilal Rather and Tika Khan visited the central jail several times on one pretext or the other,” he said.

The ADGP said Naveed Jhatt and his facilitators were in touch with each-other through mobile phones.

“We have seized the mobile phones and are analysing the data,” he said.

Asked why police did not react on the spot when the firing took place, Khan said it could have led to civilian deaths.

“We are not terrorists. For them three or four civilian deaths at that time would not matter because they are terrorists,” he said.

Khan said for now the militants might have succeeded in their plan but the security grid will get them. “It took them four months to plan this and we will get them in one day,” he said.

Regarding involvement of Pakistan in the incident, Khan said the investigation is on and whatever revelations come forward will be shared accordingly.

He also said the “elimination of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s (LeT) top leadership” by government forces may have been a factor behind the desperate but successful bid to free Naveed Jhatt alias Abu Hanzala from police custody.

“The LeT leadership was finished (in encounters). Earlier (Abu) Qasim, then (Abu) Dujana and (Abu) Ismail also. Lashkar had not designated its new commander for Kashmir. May be that is why they were so desperate to get Naveed freed,” Khan said.

He said all the militant outfits in Kashmir were operating in unison and there is no difference among them.

“You have seen the photograph of Naveed after his escape and he has gone to a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist (Saddam Padder). This vindicates my point that they are working together,” he said.

The police official was referring to a photograph of Saddam Padder and Naveed Jhatt which has surfaced after his escape from police custody at a hospital following a militant attack in which two cops escorting the Pakistani militant were killed.

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