India: Police Kill 8 Suspected Islamic Militants After Jail Break

Prabhat Sharan
161031-IN-activists-620.jpg Indian police gather alongside the bodies of eight suspected members of a banned Islamic outfit who were killed in a shootout following their escape from Bhopal Central Jail, Oct. 31, 2016.

Indian police said officers shot and killed eight suspected members of a banned Islamic group hours after they broke out of a high-security prison in Madhya Pradesh state on Monday, but critics questioned the official version of events.

The fugitives, who allegedly belonged to the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), escaped from the Bhopal Central Jail around 2 a.m. on Monday after slitting a constable’s throat, police said. The constable, Ram Shanker, died of his wounds.

Within about seven hours police traced the fugitives to a village some 20 km (12 miles) from the prison, and shot them dead during an exchange of fire, officials said.

The eight killed were “facing various charges such as sedition, treason, robbery and assault,” Director General of Police Pradeep Bhatia told BenarNews.

“Preliminary investigations indicate the inmates used a metal plate to slit the throat of the constable and then used their bed sheets and blankets as a rope to scale the prison boundary wall,” Bhatia said.

The eight were identified as Mehboob Guddu Malik, Mohammed Khalid Ahmad, Amazad Khan, Mujeeb Sheikh, Mohammed Aqeel Khilji, Zakir Hussain Sadiq, Mohammed Salik Sallu and Abdul Majid.

Although the Indian government has outlawed SIMI as a terrorist organization, the group’s activists maintained that its primary aim is to inculcate the Islamic code of conduct among the Muslim community, and SIMI has nothing to do with terrorism.

‘Too dubious’

Four jail officials, including the superintendent of police, have been suspended pending an inquiry into alleged lapses that led to the prison break, state Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan told a press briefing in Bhopal.

“Soon after the suspects broke out of prison, a high-alert was sounded and the state border was sealed,” Chouhan said.

“Country-made pistols and some knives were recovered from the deceased following the encounter,” he added.

Chouhan did not answer questions about how the escapees managed to obtain firearms at such short notice, prompting rights activists to question the authenticity of the police claim.

“It all sounds too dubious. We demand that an independent inquiry be launched to ascertain if this was a fake encounter and that a Supreme Court judge oversee the investigation,” Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties told BenarNews.

In a similar vein, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association president Manisha Sethi told BenarNews: “We will soon be issuing a statement in this matter seeking an independent inquiry into the claims made by the police.”

‘Heavy firing’

But state police dismissed the criticism, saying the suspects were killed during a gunfight.

“There was heavy firing from the other side and they were killed in retaliatory fire. Three policemen received injuries from sharp weapons [during the encounter]. Police opened 45 to 46 rounds of fire,” Inspector General Yogesh Chaudhary said at a media briefing.

“They were dangerous criminals who were involved in the killing of two constables in Khandwa district in 2008 and 2011. Three of them were also involved in an earlier jailbreak in Khandwa in 2013,” Chaudhary added.

Three of the men were arrested following a shootout in Odisha state in February, according to police.

The officers’ injuries were not life threatening, police said. Police continued to investigate what happened during the time between inmates’ escape and their killings.


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