In a major security lapse, Afzal Usmani, an Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad bombings, on Friday escaped from a special MCOCA court when he was brought there for framing of charges.
Usmani was also allegedly involved in attempts to bomb various targets in Surat.
The IM operative, who was brought to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court along with 18 others from Taloja Central Jail in Navi Mumbai, gave police the slip on the pretext of going to the toilet, sources said, adding that a manhunt has been launched to track him down.
Four other accused in the case, who were out on bail, also appeared before the court, which deferred framing of the charges till September 25 after Usmani's escape and issued an arrest warrant against him.
Police personnel escorting Usmani informed the court about his disappearance at 3 pm, following which special public prosecutor Raja Thakre prayed for an arrest warrant, which was granted.
“This is a serious offence. It is negligence on the part of the escort team which brought the accused to court. This (his escape) will have an impact on other cases also. It is a very unfortunate incident,” special judge AL Pansare said, voicing displeasure over the incident.
According to the police, Usmani was involved in stealing four cars which were used to transport explosives to Ahmedabad and Surat.
He was also charged with planting bombs.
A series of 21 bomb blasts had rocked Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, within a span of 70 minutes, killing 56 people and wounding over 200.
Some bombs were planted in tiffin carriers on bicycles. Many of the blasts targeted the city bus service, ripping apart portions of the vehicles. Two blasts took place inside the premises of two hospitals, about 40 minutes after the initial series of blasts.